Ethanol in alcoholic beverages is a causative agent for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is a biologically heterogeneous disease, and molecular subtypes defined by the presence of somatic mutations in BRAF and KRAS are known to exist. We examined associations between lifetime alcohol intake and molecular and anatomic subtypes of colorectal cancer. We calculated usual alcohol intake for 10-year periods from age 20 using recalled frequency and quantity of beverage-specific consumption for 38,149 participants aged 40–69 years from the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study. Cox regression was performed to derive hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association between lifetime alcohol intake and colorectal cancer risk. Heterogeneity in the HRs across subtypes of colorectal cancer was assessed. A positive dose-dependent association between lifetime alcohol intake and overall colorectal cancer risk (mean follow-up = 14.6 years; n = 596 colon and n = 326 rectal cancer) was observed (HR = 1.08, 95% CI: 1.04–1.12 per 10 g/day increment). The risk was greater for rectal than colon cancer (phomogeneity = 0.02). Alcohol intake was associated with increased risks of KRAS+ (HR = 1.07, 95% CI: 1.00–1.15) and BRAF−/KRAS− (HR = 1.05, 95% CI: 1.00–1.11) but not BRAF+ tumors (HR = 0.89, 95% CI: 0.78–1.01; phomogeneity = 0.01). Alcohol intake is associated with an increased risk of KRAS+ and BRAF−/KRAS- tumors originating via specific molecular pathways including the traditional adenoma-carcinoma pathway but not with BRAF+ tumors originating via the serrated pathway. Therefore, limiting alcohol intake from a young age might reduce colorectal cancer originating via the traditional adenoma-carcinoma pathway.
- alcohol intake
- colorectal cancer