New research: Alcohol responsible for around 20,000 U.S. cancer deaths per year

International researchers, including from the National Cancer Institute (Dept. of HHS) and Boston University, have reported that alcohol consumption results in an estimated 18,200 to 21,300 cancer deaths annually, or around 3.5% of all U.S. cancer deaths.  In women, the majority of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths were from breast cancer (56% to 66%).  In men, upper airway and esophageal cancers were more common (53% to 71%).

These findings were based on meta-analyses of published data since 2000 and adult alcohol consumption data from the 2009 Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and 2009-2010 National Alcohol Survey.

Heavy drinkers face the highest risks, although about a third of deaths were among individuals who only drank small amounts of alcohol (1.5 drinks per day).  The risk of developing cancer was independent of the type of alcohol consumed.

The authors conclude that alcohol remains a main contributor to cancer deaths, and that there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk.

Side Note: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports the number of annual alcoholic liver disease deaths to be 15,990 and the number of alcohol-induced deaths, excluding accidents and homicides, to be 25,692.


Nelson DE, Jarman DW, et al. Alcohol-Attributable Cancer Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. 2013 Feb 14; epub ahead of print.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Deaths: Final Data for 2010. Available at:

About markrabe

Mark L. Rabe, MD, ABIHM Integrative Holistic Medicine Centric Wellness 2308 6th Avenue San Diego, CA 92101 Telephone: (619) 546-0420 Fax: (619) 615-2346 E-Mail:

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