Physical Activity Attenuates Alcohol-related Cancer Mortality Risk

Sarfaroj Khan 

July 02, 2020


  • This study found a strong direct association between alcohol consumption and alcohol-related cancer mortality risk.

  • Ex-drinkers and drinkers beyond the guideline limits (at
    hazardous and harmful levels) presented significantly higher cancer mortality risks.

  • The increased risks were substantially attenuated among physically active participants who met at least the lower recommended limit (>7.5 metabolic equivalent task [MET]-hours/week).

Why this matters

  • Findings provide valuable evidence of the potential of promoting physical activity as an adjunct risk minimisation measure for the prevention of alcohol-related cancer.

Study design

  • This study included 54,686 participants (aged ≥ 30 years) using data from 10 British population-based surveys (Health Surveys for England 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008, and the Scottish Health Surveys 1998 and 2003).

  • Main outcome: alcohol-related cancer mortality.

  • Funding: None disclosed.

Key results

  • Compared with never-drinkers, the risk of alcohol-related cancer mortality was significantly higher among:

    • ex-drinkers (HR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.09-1.94);

    • drinkers at the hazardous level (14-35 UK units/week [women]; 21-49 UK units/week [men]) (HR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.06-1.83); and

    • drinkers at the harmful level (>35 units/week [women]; >49 units/week [men]) (HR, 1.62; 95% CI, 1.13-2.31).

  • Occasional drinkers (HR, 1.21; 95% CI, 0.91-1.61) and drinkers within guidelines (<14 units/week [women]; <21 units/week [men]), (HR, 1.19; 95% CI, 0.94-1.51) did not show statistically significantly higher risk of alcohol-related cancer mortality.

  • The increased risks were attenuated when participants in these drinking groups exercised >7.5 MET-hours/week:

    • ex-drinkers (HR, 1.25);

    • drinkers at the hazardous level (HR, 1.21); and

    • drinkers at the harmful level (HR, 1.52).


  • Alcohol-consumption and physical activity may be misclassified as they were self-reported.

Feng Y, Powell L, Vassallo AJ, Hamer M, Stamatakis E. Does adequate physical activity attenuate the associations of alcohol and alcohol-related cancer mortality? A pooled study of 54 686 British adults. Int. J. Cancer. 2020 May 14 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1002/ijc.33052. PMID: 32406936 Abstract.

This clinical summary first appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: