Drinking Alcohol Reduces Kidney Cancer Risk: Medical Facts

There is strong evidence that the moderate drinking of alcohol reduces kidney cancer risk. Also called renal cell carcinoma. The alcohol can be beer, wine or distilled spirits (liquor).


I.   Kidney Cancer

II.  Alcohol Reduces Risk

III. Summary

IV.  Resources

I. Kidney Cancer

The risk of kidney cancer is serious. It is one of the ten most common cancers among both men and women. About 50,000 cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed in the US alone each year.

A number of things increase the risk of kidney cancer.

    • Being male. About twice the risk.
    • Being older.
    • Having family history of kidney cancer.
    • Being overweight.
    • Having high blood pressure.
    • Being African American.
    • Smoking.
    • Being exposed to cadmium. Usually by working with batteries, welding materials, or paint.
    • Misusing some pain meds.
    • Having long-term dialysis.
    • Eating a high fat diet over many years.
    • Having genetic conditions. These include von Hippel-Lindau disease, and Birt Hogg Dube syndrome. Also tuberous sclerosis, and hereditary papillary RCC.

These are some common symptoms of kidney cancer.1

    • Blood in urine without pain (59% of cases).
    • Abdominal mass that’s a firm lump or thickening under the skin (45%).
    • Pain in the back or flank (41%).
    • Weight loss that’s not intended (28%).

There are also less common symptoms.

    • Swelling of the ankles and legs.
    • Fatigue.
    • Recurring fever not linked with an infection.
    • For men, a cluster of enlarged veins around a testicle.

II. Alcohol Reduces Kidney Cancer Risk

Research repeatedly shows that the moderate drinking of alcohol reduces kidney cancer risk. Some of this research is summarized below.

alcohol reduces kidney cancer1. Doctors analyzed the results of 12 prospective studies of 760,044 men and women. (A prospective study follows people over time.) The analysts found that “moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a lower risk of renal cell cancer.”1

2. Researchers studied 88,759 women for 20 years. They also studied 47,828 men for 14 years. Compared to non-drinkers, alcohol drinkers had a much lower risk of renal cell cancer.2

3. Doctors studied the 120,852 people in the Netherlands Cohort Study (NLCS) on Diet and Cancer. They did this for over 11 years. People who drank beer, wine, or spirits had a decreased risk of kidney cancer.3

4. Researchers studied 59,237 women in Sweden. Drinkers had a reduced risk of kidney cancer. Those who had at least one drink per week had a 38% lower risk of renal cell carcinoma. That’s compared to those who drank less or who abstained. For those over age 55, the risk of kidney cancer dropped by two-thirds (66%) among drinkers.4

5. Researchers followed 34,637 women in Iowa for over 15 years. Compared to non-drinkers, those who drank alcohol daily had a 48% lower risk of kidney cancer.5

Finnish Study

6. Doctors followed a large group of Finnish male smokers was for 12 years. Drinkers who consumed more alcohol had lower risk of renal cell cancer. For instance, those in the top one-fourth of consumption had a 47% reduced risk of kidney cancer.6

alcohol reduces kidney cancer7. Analysts examined data from two Italian studies involving 1,115 cases of renal cell cancer and 2,582 matched controls. People who drank more alcohol had a much lower risk of the disease.

Those who had four or fewer drinks per day had a 13% reduced risk. People who had over four to eight drinks per day had a 24% reduced risk. And those who had over eight drinks per day enjoyed a 30% reduced risk of kidney cancer.7

8. Researchers made a study of 161,126 people in the Hawaii-Los Angeles Multiethnic Cohort. They followed them for 8.3 years. Men who had one or more drinks daily had a 31% lower risk of  renal cell cancer than abstainers. There were too few women who drank and had the disease to analyze.8

Eastern European Study

9. Doctors studied 1,065 incident kidney cancer cases and 1,509 controls. They were in Russia, Romania, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Those in the upper 10th percentile of total alcohol consumption had a 61% reduced risk of the disease. That’s compared those in the lowest decile. Those with lower levels of consumption did not have a reduced risk.9

10. Researchers made a study of 315 kidney cancer patients. There were 336 controls in Oklahoma. They found that those who had drank had a lower risk of kidney cancer.10

11. Doctors made a study of 406 people with renal cell carcinoma. They compared them with 2,429 controls randomly selected from the general population of Iowa. Women who had more than three drinks weekly (the median among drinkers) had a 50% reduction in risk. That’s in comparison with never drinkers. The investigators did not find protective effect for men.11

12. Researchers made a study of Swedish men and women aged 20-79 years. It consisted of 855 cases of kidney cancer and 1,204 controls. Those who drank alcohol in moderation had a 40% reduced risk of developing renal carcinoma. The investigators found the lower risk amonong beer, wine and spirits. They concluded that “alcohol itself rather than a particular type of drink is responsible for the reduction in risk.”12

Hospital-based Study

13. Doctors made a hospital-based study of 267 men and women with kidney cancer. The doctors compared them with and an equal number of matched controls in six U.S. cities. Alcohol drinkers had a 40% reduced risk of developing kidney cancer. That’s in comparison with those who did not drink alcohol.13

14. Other doctors studied 196 cases of kidney cancer and 347 controls in France. They found no relationship between any of the variables studied and the disease. They examined the number of cigarettes smoked per day, duration of smoking, and early age at first cigarette smoking. Also  the consumption of regular coffee, decaffeinated coffee, tea, and alcohol. However. most studies find that tobacco use significantly increases risk of kidney cancer. This is also surprisingly failed to find that alcohol reduces kidney cancer risk.14

Very Large Study

15. Researchers studied 477,325 men and women. To do so, they followed them over an eight-year period. Moderate drinkers of alcohol had a much lower risk of developing renal cell carcinoma.

16. Doctors followed 107,998 men and women age 55-74 for four years. The doctors controlled for age, race, hypertension, and weight. In comparison to alcohol abstainers, drinkers had greatly reduced risk of kidney cancer.

III. Summary

The best studies use large numbers of participants, control for possible alternative explanations, and follow participants for many years. Such studies have found that drinking alcohol reduces the risk of developing renal cell carcinoma. This fact strengthens the conclusion that drinking alcohol reduces kidney cancer risk.

Moderate Drinking

Drinking in moderation has been described by by a federal agency (NIAAA). It’s a man consuming four drinks on any day and an average of 14 drinks per week. For women, it’s consuming three drinks in any one day and an average of seven drinks per week.

alcohol reduces kidney cancer
Standard Drinks

Standard drinks all have the same amount of pure alcohol. It’s 0.6 ounce.

There’s no evidence that any particular form of alcoholic beverage  gives greater health benefits than any other. That is, beer, wine, and spirits (liquor) appear overall to be roughly equally good.

IV. Resources: Alcohol Reduces Kidney Cancer

Popular Readings


1. Lee, J. et al. Alcohol intake and renal cell cancer. J Nat Cancer Inst., 99, 811-822.

2. Lee, J., et al. Total fluid intake and risk of renal cell cancer. Cancer Epid Biomark Prev., 15, 1204–1211.

3. Schouten, L., et al. Alcohol Consumption in Renal Cell Carcinoma. Cancer Epid Biomark Prev., 17(12), 3543–3550.

4. Rashidkhani, B., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of renal cell carcinoma. Int J Cancer, 117(5), 848–853.

5. Nicodemus, K., et al. Evaluation of dietary, medical and lifestyle risk factors for incident kidney cancer. Int J Cancer, 108(1), 115-121.

6. Mahabir, S., et al. Study of alcohol drinking and renal cell cancer. Cancer Epid Biomark Prev., 14, 170–175.

7. Pelucchi, C., et al. Alcohol consumption and renal cell cancer risk . Ann Oncol., 19(5), 1003-1008.

8. Setiawan, V., et al. Risk factors for renal cell cancer. Am J Epid., 166(8), 932-940.

Risk Factors

9. Hsu, C., et al. Dietary risk factors for kidney cancer. Am J Epid, 166(1), 62-70.

10. Asal, N., et al. Risk factors in renal cell carcinoma. Cancer Detect Prev., 11(3-6), 359-377.

11. Parker, A., et al. Gender, alcohol consumption, and renal cell carcinoma. Am J Epid., 155(5), 455-462.

12. Greving, J., et al. Alcoholic beverages and risk of renal cell cancer. Brit J Cancer, 97, 429-433.

13. Goodman, M., et al. A study of factors affecting the development of renal cell cancer. Am J Epid., 124, 926–941.

14. Benhamou, S., et al. Risk factors for renal-cell carcinoma. Int J Cancer, 55(1), 32-36.

15. Wozniak, M., et al. Alcohol consumption and the risk of renal cancers. Int J Cancer, 137(8), 1953-1966.

16. Karami, S., et al. A study of alcohol consumption and renal cell carcinoma riskInt J Cancer, 137(1), 238-42.


    • Now you know that alcohol reduces kidney cancer risk!
    • This site gives no advice. Please see your doctor with questions.