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1 June 2021

Novel biomarkers of habitual alcohol intake and associations with risk of pancreatic and liver cancers and liver disease mortality

Researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the United States National Cancer Institute, and partner institutions have discovered two metabolites that appear to be related to an individual’s level of alcohol consumption. These biomarkers could help advance the study of the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk in population-based studies. The findings were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Alcohol consumption is an established risk factor for several cancer types, but modest alcohol–cancer associations may be missed because of measurement error in self-reported assessments. In this study, two metabolites – 2-hydroxy-3-methylbutyric acid and a currently unidentified compound – displayed dose–response relationships with self-reported alcohol intake among participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort study and the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) study.

Higher levels of 2-hydroxy-3-methylbutyric acid were associated with increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, pancreatic cancer, and liver disease mortality. Importantly, these relationships were stronger than those between self-reported alcohol intake and these disease outcomes.

Loftfield E, Stepien M, Viallon V, Trijsburg L, Rothwell JA, Robinot N, et al.
Novel biomarkers of habitual alcohol intake and associations with risk of pancreatic and liver cancers and liver disease mortality
J Natl Cancer Inst, Published online 19 May 2021;
https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djab078

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Publication status

Published in section: IARC News

Publication date: 1 June, 2021, 7:49

Direct link: https://iarc.fr/news-events/novel-biomarkers-of-habitual-alcohol-intake-and-associations-with-risk-of-pancreatic-and-liver-cancers-and-liver-disease-mortality/

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