Drinking Alcohol May Make Prostate Cancer More Aggressive

Men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, who also have a history of heavy drinking may be more likely to have an aggressive tumor, according to new research.

A small study from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that men who had a history of drinking seven or more alcoholic beverages per week had a threefold increased risk of having a high-grade tumor, according to results published on Thursday in Cancer Prevention Research.

The researchers discovered that these findings held true no matter whether the heavy drinking happened in the teen years or later, the study's senior author, Emma Allott, said in a statement. She oversaw the study while a faculty member at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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"There's been relatively little progress in identifying risk factors for prostate cancer," Allott said. "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 team of researchers looked at survey data from 650 men at the time of prostate biopsy. Men who reported consuming more than seven alcoholic drinks weekly as teenagers and in the decades that followed were three times more likely to be diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer compared with men who reported no alcohol use during these years.

Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in men in the U.S. and the second leading cause of male cancer deaths. The prostate develops rapidly during puberty and, as a result, scientists have thought that boys may be more susceptible to cancer-causing substances during their adolescent years, according to a statement from the researchers.

"We think that prostate cancer develops over the course of many years or even decades, so studies like ours are working toward a clearer understanding not only of what the specific risk factors are but how they may affect prostate biology at different stages of life," said Allott.