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Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 90, Issue 10, pp 2349–2367 | Cite as

Carcinogenic compounds in alcoholic beverages: an update

  • Tabea Pflaum
  • Thomas Hausler
  • Claudia Baumung
  • Svenja Ackermann
  • Thomas Kuballa
  • Jürgen Rehm
  • Dirk W. Lachenmeier
Review Article

Abstract

The consumption of alcoholic beverages has been classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) since 1988. More recently, in 2010, ethanol as the major constituent of alcoholic beverages and its metabolite acetaldehyde were also classified as carcinogenic to humans. Alcoholic beverages as multi-component mixtures may additionally contain further known or suspected human carcinogens as constituent or contaminant. This review will discuss the occurrence and toxicology of eighteen carcinogenic compounds (acetaldehyde, acrylamide, aflatoxins, arsenic, benzene, cadmium, ethanol, ethyl carbamate, formaldehyde, furan, glyphosate, lead, 3-MCPD, 4-methylimidazole, N-nitrosodimethylamine, pulegone, ochratoxin A, safrole) occurring in alcoholic beverages as identified based on monograph reviews by the IARC. For most of the compounds of alcoholic beverages, quantitative risk assessment provided evidence for only a very low risk (such as margins of exposure above 10,000). The highest risk was found for ethanol, which may reach exposures in ranges known to increase the cancer risk even at moderate drinking (margin of exposure around 1). Other constituents that could pose a risk to the drinker were inorganic lead, arsenic, acetaldehyde, cadmium and ethyl carbamate, for most of which mitigation by good manufacturing practices is possible. Nevertheless, due to the major effect of ethanol, the cancer burden due to alcohol consumption can only be reduced by reducing alcohol consumption in general or by lowering the alcoholic strength of beverages.

Keywords

Alcoholic beverages Risk assessment Cancer risk Ethanol Acetaldehyde Lead 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The original review of carcinogenic compounds in alcoholic beverages (summary in Table 1) was drafted by DWL and JR in the context of participating as experts during the IARC monographs Vol. 96 meeting on alcoholic beverages in 2007 (IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans 2010) and was later updated and expanded by quantitative risk assessment (Lachenmeier et al. 2012). For this review, sections about the toxicology of each carcinogen were added, and all data were updated to represent the current knowledge in May 2016. The original material from Lachenmeier et al. (2012) is reused and updated with permission from John Wiley and Sons.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None declared.

Ethical standards

This manuscript does not contain clinical studies or patient data.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chemisches und Veterinäruntersuchungsamt (CVUA) KarlsruheKarlsruheGermany
  2. 2.Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)TorontoCanada
  3. 3.Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, CAMHTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Institute of Medical Science (IMS)University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  6. 6.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  7. 7.Institute for Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyTU DresdenDresdenGermany

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