Cancer

Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.


Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer. Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start. There is evidence that excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages or binge drinking is associated with increased morbidity and mortality from
several forms of cancer.  Low amounts of wine on the other hand, are not associated with the risk of any cancer site with the possible exception of breast cancer for women and cancers of upper gastrointestinal tract (GIT) such as the mouth and throat as well as the liver.  An increased risk for the GIT cancers is observed with all alcoholic beverages, which is a linear relationship (the greater the amount, the higher the risk), and especially in combination with smoking.

 

With regards to breast cancer and alcoholic beverages, the research results vary widely since not only the amount of alcohol but also other co-factors as well as drinking pattern play an important role and have to be taken into consideration. 

 

The majority of epidemiological studies, however, show a linear increase in the relative risk of breast cancer with an increasing dose of alcohol but the magnitude of the effect is small. An increased breast cancer risk is observed in women with additional co-factors such as genetic disposition, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), low folate intake, overweight and smoking.

 

A meta-analysis for example, examined the influence of hormones on breast cancer risk and found that alcoholic beverages (> 20g/d) might increase the breast cancer risk only among women who were concurrently using menopausal hormone therapy (HT) and /or having estrogen receptors positive tumors. These findings indicate that a hormone-related mechanism may mediate the relation between alcohol drinking and an increased breast cancer risk. Among women who had ceased using HT, the risk associated with 2 or more drinks per day was not apparent.

Another factor to be considered is folate intake. Several studies have shown an inverse relation between folate intake and cancer. Accordingly, some research results found a significant interaction between the consumption of alcoholic beverages and folate intake where alcohol seems to increase the risk significantly only for those individuals with low folate intake.


All the studies show that the knowledge about the causes of breast cancer is still very incomplete and as scientists from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the USA, recently pointed out, some other (possible confounding) factors have not been considered in the research relating the consumption of alcoholic beverages to breast cancer:

  1. In the epidemiological data provided, the intake of alcoholic beverages is usually under-reported by subjects (which could exaggerate the harm associated with light drinking).
  2. In most studies, the pattern of drinking (regularly and moderately vs. binge drinking with a similar total weekly alcohol consumption) as well as beverage type have generally not been taken into account. However, this aspect of drinking pattern is important given that binge drinking is associated with much higher blood alcohol concentrations and acetaldehyde accumulation (a known carcinogen) and production of free radicals (reactive oxygen species). Considering that the blood alcohol level may be the most important mechanism for effects on cancer risk, the pattern by which a woman consumes a given amount of alcohol is particularly relevant in interpreting associations.
  3. In addition, epidemiological studies usually provide data only for a short period of time, while the development of cancer may relate to exposures over many decades.


The authors concluded that based on scientific evidence, in post menopausal women, the increase in the risk of breast cancer, if there is any at all, is small..

 

The relationship between wine consumption and cancer is even more complex. It is not yet completely proven that wine drinkers have a lower risk for cancer than drinkers of other alcoholic beverages. However, epidemiological studies indicate a lower cancer risk for wine drinkers for most cancer sites compared to drinkers of other alcoholic beverages. Moderate wine intake may actually reduce the risk of oesophagus, thyroid, lung, kidney and colorectal cancers as well as Non-Hodgkin’s Lyphoma. To what extent differences in drinking pattern or certain beverage-specific ingredients are responsible still needs to be determined. Concerning breast cancer, there may also be a protective role for wine.

What might be a possible mechanism for the protective effect of wine? Damage to the DNA of cells by chemicals in the environment and food as well as by the physical environment can lead to cancer. Various experimental studies suggest that the phenolic compounds in wine may protect the DNA of cells of body tissues from damage or may stop the growth of cells with damaged DNA. Complete sequencing of the grapevine genome has revealed genes that are responsible for the synthesis of health-promoting compounds (resveratrol and other polyphenols). 
Another potential explanation for the observation that in some studies  red wine does not appear to increase breast cancer risk, may be the fact that red wine is a nutritional aromatase inhibitor (AI).  Aromatase inhibitors (AI) prevent the conversion of androgens to estrogens, thus a hormone-related mechanism might be involved. 

 

In summary, the cancer risk should not be evaluated in isolation, one particular food factor (like wine consumption) should not be analysed out of context with its cultural and culinary habits. The effect of wine on cancer risk also depends on whether it is consumed with or without a meal and the  nature of other foods consumed. There needs to be a distinction between different types of cancer and the influence of lifestyle (according to the World Cancer Research Fund, more than 1/3 of the cancers could be prevented by a healthy diet, regular physical activity and no weight gain) and genetic factors needs to be assessed.  

 

In future studies, the focus should be more on the pattern of drinking, not just the average weekly amount of alcohol, and thus, have a better understanding of how moderate drinking impacts cancer risk. This will allow consumers to make better informed decisions about the risks and benefits of moderate wine consumption in the context of their overall health and at different stages of their life.

 

The above summary provide an overview of the topic, for more details and specific questions, please refer to the articles in the database.

 

 

 

 

Alcohol consumption is associated with higher risk of breast cancer (BC); however, the biological mechanisms underlying this association are not fully elucidated, particularly the extent to which this relationship is mediated by sex hormone levels. Circulating concentrations of estradiol, testosterone, their free fractions and sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), were examined in 430 incident BC cases and 645 matched controls among alcohol-consuming postmenopausal women nested within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Mediation analysis was applied to assess whether individual hormone levels mediated the relationship between alcohol intake and BC risk. An alcohol-related hormonal signature, obtained by partial least square (PLS) regression, was evaluated as a potential mediator. Total (TE), natural direct and natural indirect effects (NIE) were estimated.…
Alcohol consumption is an established risk factor for colorectal cancer (CRC). However, while studies have consistently reported elevated risk of CRC among heavy drinkers, associations at moderate levels of alcohol consumption are less clear. We conducted a combined analysis of 16 studies of CRC to examine the shape of the alcohol-CRC association, investigate potential effect modifiers of the association, and examine differential effects of alcohol consumption by cancer anatomic site and stage. We collected information on alcohol consumption for 14,276 CRC cases and 15,802 controls from 5 case-control and 11 nested case-control studies of CRC. We compared adjusted logistic regression models with linear and restricted cubic splines to select a model that best fit the association between alcohol consumption and…
BACKGROUND: Epidemiological studies consistently indicate that alcohol consumption is an independent risk factor for female breast cancer (BC). Although the aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) polymorphism (rs671: Glu>Lys) has a strong effect on acetaldehyde metabolism, the association of rs671 with BC risk and its interaction with alcohol intake have not been fully elucidated. We conducted a pooled analysis of 14 case-control studies, with individual data on Asian ancestry women participating in the Breast Cancer Association Consortium. METHODS: We included 12,595 invasive BC cases and 12,884 controls for the analysis of rs671 and BC risk, and 2,849 invasive BC cases and 3,680 controls for the analysis of the gene-environment interaction between rs671 and alcohol intake for BC risk. The pooled odds ratios…
Alcohol consumption has been established to be a major factor in the development and progress of cancer. Genetic polymorphisms of alcohol-metabolism genes result in differences between individuals in exposure to acetaldehyde, leading to possible carcinogenic effects. Arg47His (rs1229984 G > A) in ADH1B have been frequently studied for its potential effect on carcinogenesis. However, the findings are as yet inconclusive. To gain a more precise estimate of this potential association, we conducted a meta-analysis including 66 studies from 64 articles with 31999 cases and 50964 controls. The pooled results indicated that ADH1B Arg47His polymorphism is significantly associated with the decreased risk of overall cancer (homozygous model, odds ratio (OR) = 0.62, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.49-0.77; heterozygous model, OR…
PURPOSE: It is unknown whether alcohol intake is associated with the risk of lethal (metastatic or fatal) prostate cancer. We examine (1) whether alcohol intake among men at risk of prostate cancer is associated with diagnosis of lethal prostate cancer and (2) whether intake among men with nonmetastatic prostate cancer is associated with metastasis or death. METHODS: This prospective cohort study uses the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986 to 2012). Our analysis of alcohol intake among men at risk of prostate cancer included 47,568 cancer-free men. Our analysis of alcohol intake among men with prostate cancer was restricted to 5,182 men diagnosed with nonmetastatic prostate cancer during follow-up. We examine the association of total alcohol, red and white wine, beer,…
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