Men who are heavy alcohol users are at least twice as likely to be diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer than those who engage in less heavy drinking. That’s the word from researchers at the University of California San Francisco. High-grade prostate cancer (Gleason score of 8, 9, or 10) is more aggressive than lower grade cancers, tends to spread more rapidly, and has a higher mortality rate
In the University of California study, which was published in the journal Cancer, researchers evaluated data from more than 10,000 men who had participated in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. They discovered that men who reported heavy alcohol use (50 grams or greater of alcohol per day) and regular heavy drinking (4 or more drinks per day on 5 or more days per week) were at least twice as likely to be diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer.
Researchers also compared the men’s drinking patterns with treatment outcome among those who had taken the prostate drug finasteride with those on placebo. Finasteride can be used to treat symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia and to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
The investigators found that among the men who were taking finasteride, drinking 50 grams or more of alcohol daily resulted in an increased risk of low-grade prostate cancer. Among the men who were taking finasteride but who drank less than 50 grams of alcohol daily, there was a 43 percent reduction in the risk of low-grade cancer.
The researchers concluded that prostate cancer risk rises with heavy alcohol use, specifically high-grade prostate cancer. They also found that men who take finasteride and who also are heavy alcohol users lose the benefit of a reduced risk of prostate cancer associated with the drug.
Gong Z, Kristal AR, Schenk JM et al. Alcohol consumption, finasteride, and prostate cancer risk: results from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. Cancer 2009 Aug 15; 115(16): 3661-69