Heavy alcohol consumption earlier in life may be a risk factor for high-grade prostate cancer in men, according to a study published in Cancer Prevention Research.1

Evidence from epidemiological studies have demonstrated that alcohol is a risk factor for various cancers, including breast, colorectal, oral, liver, and prostate cancers. Recent analyses suggest that early exposure to and lifetime intake of alcohol may significantly contribute to the development of high-grade prostate cancer.

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For this study, researchers analyzed the cases of 1221 male patients who had elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels or abnormal digital rectal examinations (DREs) and had prostate biopsies between January 2007 and January 2018. Patients were instructed to complete a questionnaire that collected demographic, medical, and lifestyle data; alcohol exposure was evaluated by asking how many alcoholic drinks were consumed per week during each decade of life. Cumulative lifetime consumption of alcohol was also calculated based on responses. The median age of the cohort was 49 years; study participants were racially diverse and had no history of prostate cancer.

Of the study subjects, 49% (317), 43% (279), and 8% (54) of men reported having 0 drinks, 1 to 6 drinks, and at least 7 drinks a week between the ages of 15 and 19, respectively. Of 650 evaluable patients who underwent biopsy, 325 were diagnosed with prostate cancer.

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A multivariate analysis revealed that compared with patients aged between 15 and 19 years who were nondrinkers, those who consumed at least 7 drinks a week had increased odds of a high-grade prostate cancer diagnosis (odds ratio [OR], 3.21; P = .02); a 3-fold increase in the risk of developing cancer was observed for heavy alcohol consumption during the 20 to 29, 30 to 39, and 40 to 49-year periods of life. A higher cumulative lifetime intake of alcohol, specifically among men in the highest tertile, also was linked with a greater than 3-fold increase in the risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer (OR, 3.20; P = .003).

Current alcohol intake was found not to be associated with the risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

The authors concluded that their results “suggest that earlier-life alcohol exposure and cumulative lifetime intake may be important variables to consider when analyzing prostate cancer risk. These data give insight into prostate cancer risk factors in general and how earlier-in-life exposures may be important to consider when analyzing prostate cancer risk. Further studies should explore earlier-life exposure to alcohol to validate these results.”


  1. Michael J, Howard LE, Markt SC, et al. Early-life alcohol intake and high-grade prostate cancer: results from an equal-access, racially diverse biopsy cohort [published online August 23, 2018]. Cancer Prev Res. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-18-0057