Heavy alcohol drinking is a risk factor for colorectal cancer (CRC); previous studies have shown a linear dose-dependent association between alcohol intake and CRC. However, some studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may have a protective effect, similar to that seen in cardiovascular disease. Other factors may interact with alcohol and contribute additional risk for CRC. We aimed to determine the association between moderate alcohol consumption, limited to 30 g of alcohol per day, by beverage type on CRC risk and to assess the effects of other factors that interact with alcohol to influence CRC risk.
The PubMed database was used to find articles published between 2008 and 2014 related to alcohol and CRC. Twenty-one relevant articles were evaluated and summarized, including 11 articles reporting on CRC risk associated with moderate intake and 10 articles focusing on genetic interactions associated with alcohol and CRC risk.
The association between alcohol and increased risk for CRC was found when intakes exceeded 30 g/d alcohol. Nonsignificant results were consistently reported for intakes <30 g/d. Additional risks for CRC were found to be related to obesity and folate status for regular alcohol consumers. Some significant results suggest that the development of CRC is dependent on the interaction of gene and environment.
The association between the amount of alcohol consumed and the incidence of CRC was not significant at moderate intake levels. Moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a reduced CRC risk in study populations with greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet, where wine contributed substantially to the alcoholic beverage consumed. Other factors such as obesity, folate deficiency, and genetic susceptibility may contribute additional CRC risk for those consuming alcohol. To minimize CRC risk, appropriate recommendations should encourage intakes below 30 g of alcohol each day.