Does drinking alcohol keep the bladder and prostate cancer away?

September 30, 2004

Drinking alcohol may play a role in preventing the two most common urologic cancers, according to two recently published studies funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Drinking alcohol may play a role in preventing the two most common urologic cancers, according to two recently published studies funded by the National Cancer Institute.

In a large study from Boston University, researchers found that drinking any kind of alcohol is not associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, and that drinking beer may actually be associated with a lower risk of the disease (Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2004; 96:1397-400).

Researchers analyzed data from more than 10,000 participants in the Framingham Heart Study. At a mean follow-up of 27 years, the researchers found no statistically significant association between bladder cancer and alcohol consumption among 126 incident cases of bladder cancer. Subjects who drank more than four beers per week were 50% less likely to develop the disease than those who did not, reported lead author Luc Dujoussé, MD.

In a second study, led by investigators at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, drinking a glass of red wine a day appeared to cut the risk of prostate cancer in half. The protective effect seems to be strongest against the most aggressive forms of the disease, the researchers reported last week in the online edition of the International Journal of Cancer.

"We found that men who consumed four or more glasses of red wine per week reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 50%," said lead author Janet L. Stanford, PhD. "Among men who consumed four or more 4-ounce glasses of red wine per week, we saw about a 60% lower incidence of the more aggressive types of prostate cancer."

The 1,456 study participants were relatively young, aged 40 to 64 years; about half were newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients, and the rest were healthy controls. Overall alcohol consumption showed no clear association with prostate cancer risk, but each additional glass of red wine consumed per week showed a statistically significant 6% decrease in relative risk (OR=0.94; 95% CI=0.90-0.98).