Ovarian cancer: Alcohol and smoking no effect, caffeine beneficial

22 Jan 2008
A new study has found that cigarette smoking and alcohol
consumption do not have an effect on ovarian cancer risk,
while caffeine intake may lower the risk, particularly in
women not using hormones. The study is published in the
March issue of Cancer, journal of the American Cancer Society.

Various studies have assessed the potential link between
modifiable factors such as smoking or caffeine and alcohol
intake and have generated conflicting results. To help
clarify these associations, Dr. Shelley S. Tworoger, of
Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public
Health, and colleagues examined ongoing questionnaire data
from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital-based Nurses’ Health
Study, which includes 121,701 US female registered nurses.
The Nurses’ Health Study cohort was established in 1976,
when women aged 30-35 completed and returned initial
questionnaires. Every two years, questionnaires are sent to
the women to update exposure variables and document newly
diagnosed diseases.

Dr. Tworoger and her co-investigators prospectively
examined associations between smoking and ovarian cancer
risk among 110,454 women and between alcohol or caffeine
and ovarian cancer risk among 80,253 women, all followed
between June 1, 1976 and June 1, 2004. For the smoking
analyses, they identified 737 confirmed cases of epithelial
ovarian cancer, and for the dietary analyses, they
identified 507 cases.

There was no association between current or past smoking
and ovarian cancer risk, however smoking status, duration,
and pack-years were significantly associated with risk of
mucinous tumors, a rare form of ovarian cancer. The authors
also found no association between alcohol consumption and
ovarian cancer risk. However they observed an inverse
trend of risk with total caffeine and caffeinated coffee
intake, but no association with decaffeinated coffee. The
potential reduction in risk with higher caffeine intake
appeared to be strongest for women who had never used oral
contraceptives or postmenopausal hormones.

The authors concluded that “reducing alcohol intake and
cessation of smoking is not likely to have a substantial
impact on risk of ovarian cancer.” They add that “the
possibility that caffeine may reduce ovarian cancer risk,
particularly for women who have not previously used
exogenous hormones, is intriguing and warrants further
study, including an evaluation of possible biological