, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 14-20

The association of alcohol consumption with coronary heart disease mortality and cancer incidence varies by smoking history

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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of alcohol on coronary heart disease (CHD), cancer incidence, and cancer mortality by smoking history.

DESIGN/SETTING: A prospective, general community cohort was established with a baseline mailed questionnaire completed in 1986.

PARTICIPANTS: A population-based sample of 41,836 Iowa women aged 55–69 years.

MEASUREMENTS: Mortality (total, cancer, and CHD) and cancer incidence outcomes were collected through 1999. Relative hazard rates (HR) were calculated using Cox regression analyses.

MAIN RESULTS: Among never smokers, alcohol consumption (≥14 g/day vs none) was inversely associated with age-adjusted CHD mortality (HR, 0.40; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.19 to 0.84) and total mortality (HR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.55 to 0.92). Among former smokers. alcohol consumption was also inversely associated with CHD mortality (HR, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.23 to 0.88) and total mortality (HR, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.62 to 0.97), but was positively associated with cancer incidence (HR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.03 to 1.51). Among current smokers, alcohol consumption was not associated with CHD mortality (HR, 1.05; 95% CI, 0.73 to 1.50) or total mortality (HR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.92 to 1.25), but was positively associated with cancer incidence (HR, 1.30; 95% CI, 1.10 to 1.54).

CONCLUSIONS: Health behavior counseling regarding alcohol consumption for cardioprotection should include a discussion of the lack of a decreased risk of CHD mortality for current smokers and the increased cancer risk among former and current smokers.

None of the authors has a conflict of interest.
See Editorial by O’Connor, p. 96–97
This work was supported in part by National Cancer Institute grants CA39742 and CA92049.