Thursday, April 13, 2006

Beer May Increase Lung Cancer Rates

Beer drinking, even if it is relatively moderate, heightens the risk of contracting lung cancer, while imbibing a little wine can have the opposite effect, suggests a striking new Canadian study.

The findings by Montreal-based researchers add to a growing body of literature linking alcohol consumption and cancer, though the reason for that connection is still largely a mystery.

Previous studies had indicated some kind of relationship between alcohol and lung cancer.

But most of that research did not factor in the effect of smoking on the subjects, making the results controversial at best.

In the new Montreal study, the authors took some pains to adjust for the participants' smoking habits and believe they have more accurately depicted the actual impact of alcohol.

"I thought the study was quite provocative and interesting," said Norman Giesbrecht, a senior scientist at Ontario's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health after reading the paper, which was published this month in the journal Cancer Causes and Control.

"There are signals that alcohol is potentially a carcinogen at relatively low levels of consumption, and one does not have to be a fall-down, chronic, dependent drunk to experience some risk," Dr. Giesbrecht said.

The findings of the Montreal and other studies on alcohol and cancer are particularly significant given that rates of high-risk drinking have been climbing in some provinces recently, Dr. Giesbrecht said.

And the per-capita consumption of alcohol is going up across Canada, he added.

Andrea Benedetti, the paper's lead author and a biostatistician at McGill University's faculty of medicine, said there were some inconsistencies in the study's findings, but a clear message did emerge.

"It's another piece of evidence and it seems to point to a harmful effect of alcohol," Dr. Benedetti said in an interview.

Previous research has found a strong link between alcohol and cancers of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus and larynx. Increased risk has also been found with stomach, colon, rectum, liver, breast and ovary cancers.

There are only theories about why alcohol might be carcinogenic.

Animal studies have indicated that a component of ethanol can be carcinogenic, while another hypothesis suggests the oxidative effect of alcohol could damage DNA.

The latest study analysed results from two large surveys in Quebec.

The first, conducted in the 1980s, looked at 699 recently diagnosed male lung cancer patients and 507 randomly selected controls.

The second, carried out in the mid-1990s, involved 1,094 men and women with lung cancer and 1,468 controls.

In both surveys, questionnaires were used to collect information on food consumption, drinking, smoking and other factors.

The Montreal researchers used four different statistical techniques to try to filter out the effect of smoking on cancer risk in an effort to isolate the effects of drinking.

In the first study, drinking beer increased the lung cancer risk by 20% for those who downed up to six brews a week, and by 50% for those who drank seven or more, the researchers concluded.

In the second study, beer consumption appeared harmful to men, as well, but not to those who regularly ate fruit and vegetables.

People in the later study who drank wine, though, saw their lung cancer risk drop, by 70% for women and 40% for men.

The protective effect of the wine may be a result of the composition of different types of alcohol, Dr. Benedetti observed.

She noted that other research suggests moderate quantities of red wine can help prevent some disease.

Differences in the lifestyles of beer versus wine drinkers could also be part of the equation, although the Montreal researchers tried to eliminate that factor by separating results according to income and education level.

Drunk Game Of The Day - Platypus

Source – Canada.Com