Cancer and Metastasis Reviews

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 425–434 | Cite as

Alcohol and head and neck cancer

  • Daisuke Kawakita
  • Keitaro MatsuoEmail author


In this article, we reviewed the association between alcohol drinking and head and neck cancer (HNC) and its subsites, using the available literature. Alcohol drinking is an established risk factor for HNC, and this association may be stronger among cancers of the oropharynx and hypopharynx than the oral cavity or larynx. In addition, higher alcohol consumption over a shorter period was more harmful than fewer alcohol consumption over a longer period, and the most frequently consumed alcoholic beverages in a population is likely to be associated with the highest risk of HNC in that population. The risk of HNC after ≥ 20 years of alcohol cessation appear to be similar to the risk among never drinkers. The interaction between genetic polymorphisms related to alcohol metabolism and alcohol drinking on the risk of HNC has been noted, and the prevalence of these genetic polymorphisms in each population should be of concern. Finally, the association between alcohol drinking and the survival of individuals with HNC remains unclear, and mortality due to competing causes should be considered in future research to evaluate this association.


Alcohol Risk Cessation SNPs Survival Head and neck cancer 



This work was supported by JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) to D. Kawakita (No.15 K21283) and MEXT Kakenhi (JP-26253041).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Molecular and Clinical EpidemiologyAichi Cancer Center Research InstituteNagoyaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck SurgeryNagoya City University Graduate School of Medical SciencesNagoyaJapan
  3. 3.Department of EpidemiologyNagoya University Graduate School of MedicalNagoyaJapan

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