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Open Access Research article

Estimation of cancer incidence and mortality attributable to alcohol drinking in china

Hao Liang1, Jianbing Wang12, Huijuan Xiao13, Ding Wang1, Wenqiang Wei1, Youlin Qiao1* and Paolo Boffetta45

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cancer Epidemiology, Cancer Institute, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China

2 Departments of Epidemiology and Statistics, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & School of Basic Medicine, Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China

3 Department of Nutrition and Food Hygiene, West China School of Public Health, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China

4 The Tisch Cancer Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, USA

5 International Prevention Research Institute, Lyon, France

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:730  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-730

Published: 25 November 2010



Cancer constitutes a serious burden of disease worldwide and has become the second leading cause of death in China. Alcohol consumption is causally associated with the increased risk of certain cancers. Due to the current lack of data and the imperative need to guide policymakers on issues of cancer prevention and control, we aim to estimate the role of alcohol on the cancer burden in China in 2005.


We calculated the proportion of cancers attributable to alcohol use to estimate the burden of alcohol-related cancer. The population attributable fraction was calculated based on the assumption of no alcohol drinking. Data on alcohol drinking prevalence were from two large-scale national surveys of representative samples of the Chinese population. Data on relative risk were obtained from meta-analyses and large-scale studies.


We found that a total of 78,881 cancer deaths were attributable to alcohol drinking in China in 2005, representing 4.40% of all cancers (6.69% in men, 0.42% in women). The corresponding figure for cancer incidence was 93,596 cases (3.63% of all cancer cases). Liver cancer was the main alcohol-related cancer, contributing more than 60% of alcohol-related cancers.


Particular attention needs to be paid to the harm of alcohol as well as its potential benefits when making public health recommendations on alcohol drinking.