Clinical Edge

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Alcohol Use & All-Cause, CV & Ca-Related Mortality

J Am Coll Cardiol; 2017 Aug; Xi, et al

Among US adults, light and moderate alcohol intake may have a protective effect on all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD)-specific mortality; whereas, heavy or binge drinking is associated with increased risk of all-cause and cancer-specific mortality. This according to a study that examined the association between alcohol consumption and risk of mortality from all causes, cancer, and CVD in 333,247 US adults aged ≥18 years. Self-reported alcohol consumption patterns were categorized into 6 groups: lifetime abstainers, lifetime infrequent drinkers, former drinkers, and current light, moderate, or heavy drinkers. Secondary exposure included participants’ binge-drinking status. Researchers found:

  • After a median follow-up of 8.2 years, 34,754 participants died of all causes (including 8,947 CVD deaths and 8,427 cancer deaths).
  • Light or moderate drinkers were at a reduced risk of mortality for all causes and CVD compared with lifetime abstainers.
  • Conversely, there was a significantly increased risk of mortality for all causes and cancer in adults with heavy alcohol consumption.
  • Binge drinking was also associated with an increased risk of mortality for all causes and cancer.


Xi B, Veeranki SP, Zhao M, Ma C, Yan Y, Mi J. Relationship of alcohol consumption to all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer-related mortality in U.S. adults. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017;70(8):913-922. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2017.06.054.


The results of this study support the recommendations of the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines, which recommend that if alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation.1 The relation between alcohol use and mortality appears to be a “J-shaped curve,” with higher mortality among those who abstain, lowest mortality among those who drink a light to moderate amount, and higher mortality among those who are heavy drinkers. Alcohol appears healthy in moderation, but causes serious health problems for those who drink heavily or binge drink. —Neil Skolnik, MD

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Accessed August 26, 2017.