Drinking Alcohol and Leukemia: Important Facts Everyone Should Know

There is medical agreement that alcohol is not a risk factor for leukemia (leukaemia). Organizations have analyzed the medical research on alcohol and leukemia. Consequently, they have concluded that drinking alcohol is not a risk factor for leukemia.  Among many others, these professional groups include the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Forms of Leukemia

More specifically, alcohol consumption is not a risk factor for any of the various forms of leukemia:

  • Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) The most common form of leukemia in young children but also affects adults, especially those age 65 and older.
  • Acute myleoid leukemia (AML) This form of leukemia occurs most often in adults. The five-year survival rate is 40%,
  • B-cell leukemia (B-PLL) This is a more aggressive, but still treatable, form of leukemia that has a poor prognosis.
  • Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia This is the most common type of childhood cancer.
  • Childhood myeloid leukemia This is the second most common form of leukemia in children.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) This incurable leukemia occurs most often among those over age 55.
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) This form of leukemia is rare among children. It occurs with about equal frequency among male and female adults.
  • Eosinophilic leukemia This form of leukemia is rare.
  • Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) About 80% of HCL victims are adult men. Although incurable, the ten year survival rate of this slow growing leukemia is very high.
  • Plasma cell leukemia (PCL) This is a rare leukemia largely found among adult males.
  • T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL) This is a very rare and aggressive leukemia affecting adults. The median survival is measured in months

Not Only a Childhood Disease

Leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children. The most common form of the disease in young people is acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It’s also called acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute lymphoid leukemia. However, leukemia also occurs among adults and is not only a “childhood disease.”

Drinking alcohol in moderation is not a risk factor for developing leukemia. On the other hand, the moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with better health and greater longevity. That’s in comparison to either abstaining from alcohol or drinking abusively.

Moderate Drinking

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has described drinking in moderation. It’s a man having four drinks on any day with an average of 14 drinks per week. For a woman, it’s having three drinks in any one day with an average of seven drinks per week.

A standard alcoholic drink is:alcohol and leukemia

One 12-ounce can or bottle of regular beer
A 5-ounce glass of dinner wine
One shot (one and one-half ounces) of 80 proof liquor or spirits such as vodka, tequila, or rum.

Standard drinks contain equivalent amounts of alcohol. To a breathalyzer, they’re all the same.

There is no evidence that any form of alcohol confers greater health benefits than another.  So beer, wine, and liquor (distilled spirits) appear equal in this regard.

Popular Books on Leukemia

Abramovitz, M. Leukemia. Detroit: Lucent, 2010. (Elemen and junior high)

American Cancer Society. Leukemia. Atlanta: The Society , 2011.

Ball, E. and Kagan, A. 100 Questions & Answers about Leukemia. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett, 2013.

Shannon, J. Leukemia Sourcebook. Basic Consumer Health Information about Adult and Childhood Leukemia. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2003.

Keene, N. Childhood Leukemia. A Guide for Families, Friends & Caregivers. Beijing: O’Reilly, 2010.

Klosterman, L. Leukemia. NY: Marshall, 2006.

Landier, W. and Hartrum, H. Coping with Childhood Leukemia. White Plains, NY: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 2012.

Liesveld, J. La Leucemia. White Plains, NY: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 2012.

Morrison, C. and Hesdorffer, C. Johns Hopkins Patients’ Guide to Leukemia. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett, 2011.

National Cancer Institute. What You Need to Know about Leukemia. Bethesda: U.S. HHS, 2013.

Smith, S. Leukemia. Causes, Symptoms, Signs, Diagnosis, Treatments, Stages of Leukemia. Bethesda: U.S. HHS, 2012.

Scientific Readings on Alcohol and Leukemia Risk

Brown, L., et al. Alcohol  and leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma risk. Leukem Res, 1992, 169(10), 979-984.
Gorini, G., et al. Alcohol and leukemi risk : a multicenter case-control study. Leukem Res, 2007, 31(3), 379-386.
Infante-Rivard, C. and El-Zein, M. Parental alcohol consumption and childhood cancers: a review. J Tox Environ, Part B, 2007, 10(1 & 2), 101-129.
Pogoda, J., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of adult-onset acute myeloid leukemia. Leukem Res, 2004, 28(9), 927-931.
Rauscher, G., et al. Alcohol intake and incidence of de novo adult acute leukemia. Leukem Res, 2004, 28(12), 1263-1265.
Shu, X-O., et al. Parental alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and risk of infant leukemia. A Children’s Cancer Group study. J Nat Cancer Inst, 1996, 88(1), 24.

References for Alcohol and Leukemia

Leukemia Risk Factors.
B-cell Leukemia Risk Factors.
Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Childhood Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.
Eosinophilic Leukemia Risk Factors.
Hairy Cell Leukemia Risk Factors.
T-Cell Leukemia Risk Factors.

Note: This website is informational only. It does not provide any recommendations or advice about alcohol and leukemia.