Page last updated: Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Heavy drinking may be linked to aggressive prostate cancer
Current research is inconclusive regarding the relation between alcohol consumption and prostate cancer risk. In this study, the authors examined the associations of total alcohol, type of alcoholic beverage, and drinking pattern with the risk of total, low-grade, and high-grade prostate cancer. The primary objective of the research was to establish the effectiveness of finasteride, a drug prescribed to prevent prostate cancer, but the study also found that heavy alcohol consumption raises the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. No association between light to moderate alcohol consumption and prostate cancer risk was established. The research also found that heavy drinking reduces the cancer-preventing effect of finasteride.

The study, which included more than 10,000 men, found that those who drank heavily - 50 grams (1.7 ounces) of pure alcohol a day, five or more days a week -- were more than twice as likely as moderate drinkers to develop what is high-grade prostate cancer. There was no difference in prostate cancer risk between non-drinkers and those who drank moderately. “The majority of [prostate] cancers are low-grade,” explained Alan R. Kristal, associate head of the cancer prevention programme at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and an author of a report. “They grow very slowly, and 100 percent of men with it live for 10 years. Most men die of something else. With high-grade prostate cancer, survival at 10 years is only 60 to 70 percent.”

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society stated that the number of men in the study was too small to establish a relationship between prostate cancer and overall alcohol consumption, he stated “Consistent information in regard to prostate cancer and alcohol really doesn’t exist”. But this study provides “what is probably the best information we have on the possible relationship,” Lichtenfeld said.

Source: Alcohol consumption, finasteride, and prostate cancer risk. Zhihong Gong, Alan R. Kristal, Jeannette M. Schenk, Catherine M. Tangen, Phyllis J. Goodman, Ian M. Thompson. Cancer. Volume 115, Issue 16, Date: 15 August 2009, Pages: 3661-3669

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