Aggressive Prostate Cancer Linked To Heavy Drinking

With prostate cancer being the second leading cause of male cancer deaths in the United States, there continues to be research into how these statistics can be lowered.

While diet does play a fact in lowering the risk, such as consuming tomatoes and watermelons rich in lycopene, the consumption of alcohol can also play a factor. More-so, a new study has revealed how one’s consumption of alcohol could potentially influence the type of prostate cancer, if diagnosed, that they will have to endure.

The study

Researchers from the University of North Carolina attempted to find a link between heavy early life alcohol consumption and the aggressiveness of prostate cancer in later life.

“The prostate is an organ that grows rapidly during puberty, so it’s potentially more susceptible to carcinogenic exposure during the adolescent years” explained leader of the study Dr. Emma Allott in a press release. “For this reason, we wanted to investigate if heavy alcohol consumption in early life was associated with the aggressiveness of prostate cancer later.”

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 650 ex-servicemen, aged 49 to 89 who were underwent prostate biopsies at Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center from January 2007 to January 2018. The men also had no prior history of prostate cancer.  The men also filled out questionnaires that assessed their weekly alcohol consumption during each decade of their life. When aged 15 to 19 years, 49% of men reported not drinking between the ages of 15-19 years while 43% admitted to consuming between one to six drinks per week, and the remaining 8% said that they consumed more than seven drinks per week.

“There’s been relatively little progress in identifying risk factors for prostate cancer,” Dr. Allott explained, “Other hormonally regulated cancers, like breast cancer, already have a known association with alcohol use. But the role that alcohol consumption may have in the development of prostate cancer, especially over the life course, isn’t as well understood, so it remains an important area of study.”

The results

The study revealed a correlation between the consumption of seven or more alcoholic beverages a week and an increased risk of a high-grade prostate cancer.

Specifically, the men who reported consuming more than seven alcoholic drinks weekly throughout their lives at the ages of  20-29, 30-39, and 40-49 faced increased odds of 3.14, 3.09, and 3.64 of  being diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer when compared to the men who consumed little to no alcohol use during these years. Of the 650 men, 325 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer with 238 having low-grade cancer and 88 dealing with high-grade. While heavy alcohol intake during the ages of 15 and 19 was not directly associated with overall prostate cancer, the high intake of alcohol per week during this time period did increase the odds of high-grade prostate cancer.

It’s important to note that the study did not reveal any significant link between current alcohol consumption and high-grade prostate cancer.

The verdict on prostate cancer

The study did well to highlight the long-term impact that alcohol can have on prostate health,

“Our results may explain why previous evidence linking alcohol intake and prostate cancer has been somewhat mixed” said Dr. Allott, “It’s possible that the effect of alcohol comes from a lifetime intake, or from intake earlier in life, rather than alcohol patterns around the time of diagnosis of prostate cancer.”

Nonetheless, one notable drawback is the fact that the men who had high-grade tumors were also smokers which could in fact also be a determining factor in the form of this type of cancer that one is diagnosed with. That being said, the researchers are in no rush to recommend new daily alcohol intake rates. However, it does emphasize the need to regulate alcohol consumption, especially in teenagers.

“There are plenty of other reasons young men shouldn’t be drinking on a daily basis” said Dr. Leonard Appleman of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania. “But this is another example of chronic alcohol consumption’s long-term impact in many areas. The fact that current drinking wasn’t associated with high grade tumors fits in with what we know about prostate cancer. It’s decades in the making. The mutations start in early adulthood and build up over the decades.

Read more about the study here

Want to find out more?

A good way to make sure you are up to date with all aspects of your health is by setting up a calendar that will remind you to have your health check-ups. Depending on your healthcare provider, your pocket could benefit as well, since healthcare companies consider these checkups a great way to prevent serious disease and health issues. Click here to find out which ones should definitely be on your calendar and how to set it up properly.