There is strong evidence that the moderate consumption of alcohol reduces kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma) risk. The alcoholic beverage can be beer, wine or distilled spirits (liquor).
Overview I. Kidney Cancer II. Alcohol Reduces Risk III. Summary IV. Resources
I. Kidney Cancer
II. Alcohol Reduces Risk
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 U.S. alone each year.
A number of things increase the risk of kidney cancer.
- Being male. Men have about twice the risk of kidney cancer.
- Being older.
- Having family history of kidney cancer.
- Being overweight.
- Having high blood pressure.
- Being black or African-American.
- Being exposed to cadmium. Usually by working with batteries, welding materials, or paint.
- Misusing some pain medications.
- Having long-term dialysis.
- Eating a high fat diet over a period of many years.
- Having genetic conditions such as von Hippel-Lindau disease, Birt Hogg Dube syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, and hereditary papillary RCC.
These are some common symptoms of kidney cancer.1
- Passing blood in urine without pain(59%).
- 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.
- Recurring fever not associated with a cold, flu or other infection.
- For men, a cluster of enlarged veins around a testicle.
II. Alcohol Reduces Kidney Cancer Risk
Research repeatedly shows that the moderate consumption of alcohol reduces kidney cancer risk. Some of this research is summarized below.
1. Doctors analyzed the results of 12 prospective studies of 760,044 men and women. (A prospective study follows participants 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. In comparison with non-drinkers, alcohol consumers had a much lower risk of developing renal cell cancer.2
3. Investigators studied the 120,852 participants in the Netherlands Cohort Study (NLCS) on Diet and Cancer for over 11 years. People who drank beer, wine, or distilled spirits had a decreased risk of kidney cancer.3
4. Epidemiologists studied 59,237 women in Sweden. Drinkers had a reduced risk of developing kidney cancer. Those who had at least one drink per week enjoyed a 38% lower risk of renal cell carcinoma. That’s in comparison with those who drank less or who abstained. In additioin, for women 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. In comparison to alcohol abstainers, women who drank alcohol daily had a 48% lower risk of developing kidney cancer.5
6. Doctors followed a large group of Finnish male smokers was for 12 years. Drinkers who consumed more alcohol had lower risk of developing renal cell cancer. For example, those in the top one-fourth of consumption had a 47% reduced risk of kidney cancer.6
7. 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 developing the disease. Those who consumed 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 developing kidney cancer.7
8. Investigators made a study of 161,126 participants 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 developing renal cell cance than abstainers. There were too few women who drank and developed the disease to analyze.8
Eastern European Study
9. Doctors studied 1,065 incident kidney cancer cases and 1,509 controls in Russia, Romania, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Those in the upper 10th percentile of total alcohol consumption had a 61% reduced risk of developing the disease. That’s in comparison with those in the lowest decile. However, those with lower levels of consumption did not experience a reduced risk.9
10. Researchers made a study of 315 renal cell carcinoma patients, 313 hospital and 336 population controls in Oklahoma. They found that those who had consumed alcohol had a lower risk of kidney cancer.10
11. Investigators 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
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 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.
Drinking in moderation has been described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (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.
- 12-ounce can or bottle of regular beer
- 5-ounce glass of dinner wine
- one and one-half ounces (a shot) of 80 proof spirits.
Standard drinks contain equivalent amounts of alcohol. To a breathalyzer, they’re all the same.
There is no evidence that any particular form of alcoholic beverage gives greater health benefits than any other. That is, beer, wine, and distilled spirits appear overall to be roughly equally beneficial.
IV. Popular Resources on Kidney Cancer
Campbell, S., et al. 100 Questions & Answers about Kidney Cancer. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett, 2016.
National Cancer Institute. What You Need to Know about Kidney Cancer. Bethesda: The Institute, 2010.
Walczak, J. and Carducci, M. Johns Hopkins Medicine Patients’ Guide to Kidney Cancer. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2011.
1. Lee, J. et al. Alcohol intake and renal cell cancer in a pooled analysis of 12 prospective studies. J Nat Cancer Inst., 2007, 99, 811-822.
2. Lee, J., et al. Total fluid intake and use of individual beverages and risk of renal cell cancer in two large cohorts. Cancer Epid Biomark Prev., 2006, 15, 1204–1211.
3. Schouten, L., et al. Alcohol Consumption in Renal Cell Carcinoma. Cancer Epid Biomark Prev., 2008, 17(12), 3543–3550.
4. Rashidkhani, B., et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of renal cell carcinoma. Int J Cancer, 2005, 117(5), 848–853.
5. Nicodemus, K., et al. Evaluation of dietary, medical and lifestyle risk factors for incident kidney cancer in postmenopausal women. Int J Cancer, 2004, 108(1), 115-121.
6. Mahabir, S., et al. Prospective study of alcohol drinking and renal cell cancer risk in a cohort of Finnish male smokers. Cancer Epid Biomark Prev., 2005, 14, 170–175.
7. Pelucchi, C., et al. Alcohol consumption and renal cell cancer risk in two Italian case–control studies. Ann Oncol., 2008, 19(5), 1003-1008.
8. Setiawan, V., et al. Risk factors for renal cell cancer. Am J Epid., 2007, 166(8), 932-940.
9. Hsu, C., et al. Dietary risk factors for kidney cancer in Eastern and Central Europe. Am J Epid, 2007, 166(1), 62-70.
10. Asal, N., et al. Risk factors in renal cell carcinoma. Cancer Detect Prev., 1988, 11(3-6), 359-377.
11. Parker, A., et al. Gender, alcohol consumption, and renal cell carcinoma. Am J Epid., 2002, 155(5), 455-462.
12. Greving, J., et al. Alcoholic beverages and risk of renal cell cancer. Brit J Cancer, 2007, 97, 429-433.
13. Goodman, M., et al. A case-control study of factors affecting the development of renal cell cancer. Am J Epid., 1986, 124, 926–941.
14. Benhamou, S., et al. Risk factors for renal-cell carcinoma in a French case-control study. Int J Cancer, 1993, 55(1), 32-36.
15. Wozniak, M., et al. Alcohol consumption and the risk of renal cancers. Int J Cancer, 2015, 137(8), 1953-1966.
16. Karami, S., et al. A prospective study of alcohol consumption and renal cell carcinoma risk. Int J Cancer, 2015, 137(1), 238-42.
Most research reports that drinking alcohol reduces kidney cancer risk.