Laryngeal cancer represents an important cause of cancer in France, and the individual effects of alcohol and tobacco on this cancer site are well known. However the problem of the interaction between these agents is less extensively documented, and the role of the high consumptions of alcohol has not been studied frequently. A case-control analysis was undertaken to investigate the joint effect of alcohol and tobacco by comparing 197 glottic and 214 supraglottic cancer cases to 4135 controls representative of the French general population. Heavy drinkers were available from the two groups of cases, the highest alcohol category being equivalent to a consumption of more than 2 litres of wine per day. The relative risks estimated for heavy drinkers and smokers were high, and the results indicated an even stronger effect of alcohol drinking and tobacco smoking on the upper part of the laryngeal region. Additive and multiplicative models were fitted to the data. The multiplicative hypothesis was found to be the most appropriate, implying that the risks associated with alcohol and tobacco multiply when the exposures occur simultaneously. The public health implications of this result and the contribution of heavy drinkers and smokers to the frequency of upper respiratory and digestive tract cancers are discussed.
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