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History of heavy drinking linked to more aggressive prostate cancer


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Reuters Health: Among men getting a prostate biopsy, those with a history of consuming seven or more drinks a week are more likely than nondrinkers to be diagnosed with an aggressive tumor, a small study suggests.

Researchers found a three-fold increased risk of having a high-grade tumor in these men, no matter whether the heavy drinking occurred in youth - ages 15 to 19 - or in later decades, according to the results published in Cancer Prevention Research. There was no link, however, between current alcohol consumption and tumor grade. The original intent of the study was to look at the youngest age group, thinking that alcohol might have a deleterious effect on the developing prostate, said the study’s senior author, Emma Allott, who oversaw the research while a faculty member at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

“We initially set out to look at the teenage years but we also saw an elevated risk in many of the decades up to midlife,” said Allott, who is now a lecturer at Queens University, Belfast. “This highlights the need to look throughout the lifespan if you want to understand whether alcohol has any role in the development or the aggressiveness of prostate cancer.”

Allott isn’t ready to tell men to quit drinking. There needs to be more research backing up her study before any kind of recommendation is made, she said.

Still, there are other reasons to scale back, she said, “mainly in light of recommendations regarding alcohol and other cancers.”

Allott and her colleagues analysed data gathered from 650 men who were undergoing a prostate biopsy at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Carolina between January 2007 and January 2018. The veterans in the study, whose ages ranged from 49 to 89, had no prior history of prostate cancer.

The study population was unusually diverse: 54 percent of the participants were non-white. That’s important, experts said, because this cancer hits African Americans harder than whites.

Coupled with the information from the biopsies of the men’s tumors was data on alcohol consumption and other medical and lifestyle factors that came from questionnaires the men filled out.

The researchers also looked at lifetime alcohol exposure and found a more than three-fold increased risk of a high-grade tumor in men who consumed more than 10,660 drinks - which works out to about one drink a day for 30 years.

 


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