Alcohol consumption among South Korean adults is apparently high, with over three quarters of the adult population consuming alcohol and a ‘high-risk’ drinking rate of one in five. Excessive alcohol consumption is considered to be a risk factor for developing benign laryngeal disorders (BLDs) such as vocal cord nodules, polyps and cysts, which has been theorised to be due to a local vasodilator and oedema-inducing effect. This study draws on national epidemiological data from South Korea to examine the relationship between patterns of alcohol consumption and the development of BLDs at a population level. The subjects of this study were 3141 adults who completed a health review and underwent laryngoscopy as part of a Korean national health survey in 2008. Ninety individuals (2.9%) were found to have a BLD on laryngoscopy. A comparison of the characteristics of this group with unaffected individuals found that those who drank more than four times a week had over twice the risk of having a BLD than those who drank less than once a week. Amount of alcohol consumed per drinking episode did not, however, appear to influence the risk. These relationships held true even when adjusted for smoking rates (33% in the BLD group vs 23% in control group) and other confounding variables. It is speculated that one of the reasons for these observations may be an additional indirect effect of alcohol consumption, such as the influence of the environment in which alcohol is consumed. It is easy to imagine that frequent, albeit low alcohol, consumption in a noisy environment, for instance, predisposes to voice abuse and in turn development of a BLD. Co-existing reflux was also not assessed as part of the survey. In terms of everyday clinical practice, the results of this paper suggest that patients with BLDs should be counselled about their alcohol intake to help reduce the possibility of recurrence after intervention. It appears that the occasional binge can be forgiven however, at least in the context of BLDs.

A population-based cross-sectional study of alcohol consumption and risk of benign laryngeal disease in Korean adults.
Byeon H.
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Christopher Burgess

Musgrove Park Hospital, Taunton, UK.

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