Alcohol and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) Related to Risk

Drinking alcohol and non-Hodgkin lymphoma are linked. Strong evidence is that drinking alcohol reduces the the risk of the disease. (It’s also correct to call it non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.)

I. The Disease: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL)

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer that forms in the lymphatic system. This network is to fight disease throughout the body. In NHL, cancer forms in white blood cells known as lymphocytes. Many forms of NHL exist.

alcohol and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Lymphatic System
    • Swollen but painless lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, or groin.
    • Fatigue that continues.
    • Fever
    • Night sweats
    • Unexplained weight loss.
    • Pain or swelling in the abdomen.
    • Chest pain or problems.

A cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells. It’s this growth that causes the lymph nodes to swell.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases the chance of getting a disease. But a person can have many risk factors without getting the disease. And a person can get the disease without having any of the risk factors.

    • Older age.
    • Certain chemicals. Especially those used to kill weeds or insects.
    • Some viruses (such as HIV) and bacteria (such as H. pylori). 
    • Meds that suppress the immune system.
    • Abstaining from alcohol.

II. Research: Alcohol and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Research on drinking alcohol and non-Hodgkin lymphoma has been done for decades. And around the world.
International Study

Researchers analyzed data from nine case-control studies. They were from the US, the UK, Sweden and Italy. The studies included a total of 15,175 people. The researchers found that men and women who drank alcohol had a much lower risk of NHL. That was in compared to those who didn’t drink. Also current drinkers had a lower risk than did former drinkers. The protective effect of alcohol did not vary by alcoholic beverage type. That is, beer, wine or distilled spirits.1

Large Study

Scientists used very large prospective study to examine lifestyle factors among 473,984 people. There were  285,079 men and 188,905 women. The researchers found that drinkers had a much lower risk of NHL. That was in comparison with non-drinkers. For instance, those who drank over 28 drinks per week  had about  25% lower  risk of NHL. That was compared to non-drinkers. This existed for beer, wine and spirits.2

US Study

Researchers made a population-based case-control study of adult men and women. They were from four  areas of the U.S. Those were Detroit, Michigan, Iowa, Los Angeles, and Seattle. The researchers found that those who drank alcohol had a much lower risk of  NHL. Again, compared to non-drinkers.3

Iowa Study

Scientists studied 35,156 women aged 55-69 years. They were in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. The scientists analyzed them over a nine-year period. The researchers found that drinking increased, the risk of NHL went down. That was compared to non-drinking. They also found that the form of alcohol made no difference. Thus, beer, wine, and spirits were equally protective against the disease.4

Los Angeses County Study

Researchers made a population based case-control study of residents of Los Angeles County. They found that the risk of NHL among women decreased as drinking increased. The risk of NHL was 50% lower among those had five or more drinks per week. The same was true for men, but less dramatic. In both cases, that was in comparison to those who abstained from alcohol.5

International Study

Scientists made a case-control study. They studied people in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland and the Czech Republic. Researchers followed  over a period of seven years. As a result, they found that drinking greatly reduced the risk of NHL.6

Review of Research Study

Researchers made a meta-analysis of 29 studies that included 18,759 NHL cases. The overall risk of NHL was 15% lower for drinkers compared to non-drinkers. Light drinkers who had less than one drink per day. They had a 12% lower risk. Moderate drinkers had one up to but, not including, four drinks per day. They had a 13% lower risk. Heavy drinkers had four or more drinks per day. They enjoyed a 16% lower risk of NHL. The positive effect of drinking on lowering the risk of the disease was similar for both men and women.7

Drinking alcohol appears to reduce the risk of NHL. In addition, moderate drinking is associated with better health and longer life. That’s compared to either not drinking or drinking heavily.

Moderate Drinking

Moderate drinking has been described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). For a man it’s having two drinks per day For women, it’s having one drink per day.

Different countries use widely differing definitions of moderate or sensible drinking. It’s not based on science. But it’s based largely on politics or culture.

alcohol and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Standard Drinks

Standard drinks contain the same amount of pure alcohol. It’s six-tenths of an ounce. A drink is a drink. So drinking two beers is the same as having two shots of whiskey. At least in terms of alcohol.

There is no evidence that any form of alcohol gives more health benefits than another. Thus beer, wine, and distilled spirits (liquor) are all equally helpful.

III. Resources: Alcohol and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

    1. Morton, L., et al. Alco and non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk. Lancet Oncol, 6(7), 469-76.
    2. Lim, U., et al. Alco, smoking, and body size in relation to incident Hodgkin’s and NHL risk. Am J Epi, 166(6), 697-708.
    3. Lim, U., et al. Dietary determinants and the risk of NHL. Am J Epi, 162(10), 953-964.
    4. Chiu, B., et al. Alco and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in a cohort of older women. Brit J Can, 80(9), 1476-82.
    5. Nelson, R.A., et al. Alco, tobacco and recreational drug use and the risk of NHL. Brit J Can, 76(11), 1532-1537.
    6. Besson H., et al. Tobacco smoking, drinking alco and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Int J Can, 119(4), 901-8.
    7. Tramaere, I., et al. Alco and non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk. Ann Oncol, 23(11), 2791-98.
    • This site gives no advice. Please see your doctor, who can answer your questions.