Drinking a glass of red wine a day may cut a man’s risk of prostate cancer in half, and the protective effect appears to be strongest against the most aggressive forms of the disease.
“We found that men who consumed four or more glasses of red wine per week reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 50 percent,” says Dr. Janet L. Stanford and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “Among men who consumed four or more four-ounce glasses of red wine per week, we saw about a 60 percent lower incidence of the more aggressive types of prostate cancer,” says Dr. Stanford, senior author of the study. “The more clinically aggressive prostate cancer is where the strongest reduction in risk was observed.” Dr. Stanford found no significant effects - positive nor negative - associated with the consumption of beer or hard liquor and no consistent risk reduction with white wine.
The positive effect of red wine may Dr Stanford believes, be due to the antioxidant resveratrol. Lab studies indicate that resveratrol influences a variety of biological pathways that are important in cancer development. As an antioxidant, it helps sweep dangerous, cancer-causing free radicals from the body. As a potent anti-inflammatory agent, it blocks certain enzymes that promote tumor development. The compound also reduces cell proliferation, curtailing the number of cell divisions that could lead to cancer or the continued growth of cancer cells. It also enhances apoptosis, or programmed cell death, which helps rid the body of cancerous cells. It may act as an estrogen, reducing levels of circulating male hormones such as testosterone that fuel the growth of prostate cancer.
While the researchers found that the risk of prostate cancer decreased 6 percent for every glass of red wine consumed per week, Dr. Stanford is quick to point out that research shows the law of diminishing returns comes into play when consumption increases beyond moderation. “For men who already are consuming alcohol, I think the results of this study suggest that modest consumption of red wine - four to eight 4-ounce drinks per week - is the level at which you might receive benefit,” Dr. Stanford explains.
For the study, the researchers interviewed 753 newly diagnosed Seattle-area prostate-cancer patients as well as 703 healthy controls who served as a comparison group. . “Even though this study is based on relatively small numbers, the results are very intriguing and suggest that the potential beneficial effect of red wine and resveratrol would be very important, because it’s the more aggressive forms of prostate cancer that are most important to prevent,” concludes Stanford.
The findings, by Dr. Janet L. Stanford and colleagues, appear online in The International Journal of Cancer.