First Corn Schnapps, then Cancer

2. November 2009
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In the future, physicians treating hard-drinking patients should consult their colleagues working in the field of urology: Only 50 g of alcohol a day increase the risk for prostate cancer massively. Binge drinking or just a little beer, wine or schnapps at the end of a long day might be followed by extra work likewise for oncologists and urologists. 

Because like a study with 2129 prostate cancer patients made within the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT) now shows the effects of excessive alcohol consumption are devastating for the prostate gland. The risk for tumor formation nearly doubles in comparison to abstainers or people drinking moderately.

The study published in the professional magazine CANCER is really something. “If physicians practice prostate prevention they should also keep an eye on alcohol prevention in the future”, suggests Alan Kristal, head of the study and boss of the Cancer Prevention Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington/USA. Most of all beer afflicts the male organ. The risk ratio (RR) for high-grade prostate carcinoma jumps to 2.89 – just this visit at the Oktoberfest in Munich/Germany once a year thus might rise to become a potential killer for one or another patient.

For physicians those results might be fascinating to read but they are hardly appropriate for every day practice. Kristal might have guessed that – and pursued another question. The study examined also the influence of alcohol consumption on patients already treated with the agent Finasterid for a benign prostatic enlargement. This substance belongs to the selective inhibitors of the steroid-5α-reductase type II. It is administered as a pharmaceutical agent for therapy of the benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

Here physicians possibly might have to demand more details from their patients because, according to Kristal, the use of the drug now leads to a massive increase of the prostatic cancer risk as soon as the patient drinks on a regular basis – most of all if he drinks a lot. After all the probability of tumor growth is 78 percent higher in those cases. The preventive measure useful itself mutates in those patients at least potentially into a trigger for cancer.

According to Kristal urologists would be well-advised to keep an eye on the alcohol consumption habits of their patients. Those consuming less than 50 grams of alcohol per day and swallowed the agent showed only a 19 percent higher risk for cancer. Thus it seems to stand firm that alcohol consumption might switch the medicinal preventive measures into the opposite.

Beer as a tumor-trigger

The influence of alcohol proves to be more complex by far if you take the type of tumor growth into consideration as well. The above mentioned figures are only in regard to high-grade prostatic carcinomas. The influence of alcohol on growth of low-grade carcinomas seems to be completely different: Here the agent decreases the cancer risk by 43 percent as long as the daily dose of alcohol remains below 50 grams. Who consumes how many beers on which days and over what time frames – this is something the physicians would have to learn from his patient. But there is more.

Another medical aspect might be especially tragic for beer lovers. As the EPIC-study with 15347 male test persons in the age between 25 and 70, the largest long-term study worldwide showed end of last year: The body fat distribution on waist and hip of the patient plays a decisive role regarding the risk for prostatic cancer as well. Alarming conclusion: Compared to men with a waist-hip quotient below 0.89, men with a quotient above 0.99 have a 43 percent higher risk for advanced prostatic cancer – so the beer belly develops into a prostate killer as well.

Despite the multiplicity of risks, it seems rather unlikely though, that urologists might create questionnaires for beer drinkers and their consumption habits. But the idea of prostate patients taking a verbal warning back home after a visit in their doctor’s office is a lot more realistic: In addition to beer, also severe consumption of wine leads to a fatal change of the prostate cells into a tumor – not to mention the corn schnapps at the end of the day.

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