As prostate cancer is one of the more common forms of cancer in men, your patients may be looking into risk factors for the disease. Common risk factors include older age and a family history of prostate cancer.¹ Lifestyle factors, however, have proven more difficult to link to the condition.
One lifestyle factor your patients may be curious about is alcohol consumption. Frequent alcohol use has been linked to an increased risk for certain cancers, but multiple studies about alcohol and prostate cancer have led to inconsistent conclusions. What have some of the more recent studies suggested about a potential association between prostate cancer risk and alcohol consumption, and does the specific type of alcohol have an effect?
Alcohol and Prostate Cancer Risk
Recent studies that have focused on possible links between alcohol consumption and prostate cancer risk have come to varying conclusions. A 2019 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, for example, examined alcohol intake among men at risk for prostate cancer and found that the men in the study who drank alcohol were at a reduced risk of lethal prostate cancer.² The researchers did not find any correlation between between alcohol intake and a progression to lethal prostate cancer, and found that among men who had received a prostate cancer diagnosis, those who drank 15-30 grams per day of alcohol actually had a lower risk of mortality than those who did not drink. While researchers acknowledged that additional research was needed, they suggested that light to moderate consumption of alcohol may be safe for patients.
Other studies, however, have suggested that alcohol does bring with it an increased risk of prostate cancer. Researchers of a 2018 study in Cancer Prevention Research found that among a cohort of 650 men receiving a prostate biopsy for either elevated PSA levels or an abnormal digital rectal examination, heavy alcohol consumption in their early lives often correlated with more aggressive forms of prostate cancer.³ This includes a more likely diagnosis of high-grade prostate cancer upon biopsy. In looking into a number of epidemiological studies on the subject, researchers of a 2022 study in Biomolecules concluded that while findings varied, there was a link between alcohol consumption and prostate cancer development.⁴ However, they acknowledged that in addition to even more research being needed, other factors also played a large role in the development of prostate cancer, including diet and smoking.
Does the Type of Alcohol Affect Risk?
The researchers of the previously referenced Journal of Clinical Oncology study found that red wine consumption actually lowered mortality risk in cohorts who were diagnosed with prostate cancer.² However, the researchers of the Biomolecules study found varying results.⁴
Some studies that suggest a link between alcohol and prostate cancer mention beer as a particularly strong association. A 2016 study in Cancer Epidemiology, in looking into the association between alcohol consumed over a lifetime and prostate cancer risk, found that positive associations in their group were mostly driven by beer intake.⁵
1. Prostate cancer risk factors. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Updated June 9, 2020. Accessed September 13, 2022.
2. Downer MK, Kenfield SA, Stampfer MJ et al. Alcohol intake and risk of lethal prostate cancer in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2019;37(17):1499-1511. doi:10.1200/jco.18.02462
3. 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. Cancer Prevention Research. 2018;11(10):621-628. doi:10.1158/1940-6207.capr-18-0057
4. Macke AJ, Petrosyan A. Alcohol and prostate cancer: time to draw conclusions. Biomolecules. 2022 Feb 28;12(3):375. doi: 10.3390/biom12030375. PMID: 35327568; PMCID: PMC8945566.
5. Demoury C, Karakiewicz P, Parent ME. Association between lifetime alcohol consumption and prostate cancer risk: A case-control study in Montreal, Canada. Cancer Epidemiol. 2016;45:11-17. doi:10.1016/j.canep.2016.09.004