Teenage alcohol use triples risk of aggressive prostate cancer
Alcohol consumption has long been linked to several forms of cancer, especially breast, liver, and esophageal, mouth, and colorectal cancers. The link between drinking and prostate cancer however, has been mixed.a Now that may change as a new study has found teenage boys who regularly consume alcohol triple their risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer later in life.
The author of this research published in the Cancer Prevention Research journal, Dr. Emma Allott, from the University of North Carolina, stated that, “The prostate is an organ that grows rapidly during puberty, so it’s potentially more susceptible to carcinogenic exposure during the adolescent years.” She went on to state, “There’s been little progress in identifying risk factors for prostate cancer.” Prostate cancer is a hormonally driven cancer just like breast cancer; it is already known that women who drink have a higher risk for developing breast cancer. Alcohol’s role in the development of prostate cancer is not as well understood. It was for this reason that the study focused on discovering if heavy alcohol use in early life was associated with the aggressiveness of prostate cancer decades later.
For the study, 650 ex-servicemen aged 49 to 89 who were having biopsy tests for prostate cancer, were questioned about their weekly alcohol consumption during each decade of life. Results showed that men who had a least seven “standard” U.S. drinks – each equivalent to a bottle of beer or a glass of wine – every week between the ages of 15 and 19 were 3.2 times as likely as nondrinkers to develop aggressive prostate cancer later in life. Men who had seven or more alcoholic beverages a week throughout each decade of life were also three times more likely to be diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer at the time of biopsy. The researchers did not find an association between alcohol use and other less aggressive forms of prostate cancer.
If the men had the same level of drinking between their 20s and 40s it resulted in a similar risk. However, by the time a man reached the age of 60, the amount they drank appeared to have no impact raising their risk of prostate cancer. This finding suggests that the earlier in life a man consumes alcohol regularly at least 7 times a week, the more damage to the prostate gland.
Most prostate cancers when found are not high-grade or the clinically significant, aggressive form of prostate cancer which grows quickly and can potentially lead to death.
There are some caveats with this study - one in particular is that being able to rely on the accuracy and memories of participants of events taking place decades ago can be tricky. There is also the fact that it is difficult to single out the impact of drinking alcohol from other factors that may have also influenced and played a role in the development of prostate cancer.
What is known and the best advice for men is that alcohol does play a role in the development of some cancers and should be consumed in moderation if a man chooses to do so.