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Dark-Colored Alcohol Drink and Lung and Head and Neck Cancers: A Case-Control Study in Los Angeles County


Background: Alcohol beverage has been defined as group 1 carcinogen by IARC, along with cumulated epidemiological data indicating that head and neck cancer is an alcohol-related cancer. There is a weak relationship between alcohol consumption and lung cancer. However, there are few studies on the carcinogenic effect of different-colored alcohol, and little is known about the mechanism of carcinogenicity for different ingredients in alcohols, especially the color contents produced in the fermentation or brewing processing.

Methods: From 1999 to 2004, newly diagnosed lung cancer and head and neck cancer cases, as well as population controls, were recruited from Los Angeles County. A total of 611 lung cancer cases, 601 head and neck cancers and 1,040 healthy controls were interviewed by a structured questionnaire, including detailed alcohol consumption information. After adjusting potential confounders, adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CL) were estimated by unconditional logistic regression.

Results: After adjusted for age, education, ethnicity, gender, smoking status and tobacco consumption, dark-colored alcohol drinking was negatively associated with lung cancer (OR for always and most drinking dark-colored alcohol = 0.613; 95% CL: 0.438, 0.858). For specific alcohol type, along with the increasing frequency of drinking dark-colored wine, the inverse associations become stronger for dark-colored wine (ORs = 0.771, 0.719, 0.484 in never, half or less, and always and most group V.S. non-drinkers). For head and neck cancer, the patterns of observed associations were similar between dark-colored wine and beer/liquor and also consistent with associations between all types of alcohols and head and neck cancers.

Conclusion: the overall dark-colored alcohols and specifically in wine are inversely associated with lung cancer, indicating “anti-cancer” properties of dark-colored alcohol beverages. More research is needed to conduct in-depth studies on potential mechanisms of different types of dark- colored alcohol for potential preventive measures

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