NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Results of a new study provide more evidence of a dose-response relationship between alcohol intake and rectal, but not colon cancer.
The latest findings are from a population-based cohort study of more than 29,000 Danish men and women aged 23 to 95 for whom weekly intake of beer, wine, and spirits as well as smoking habits, BMI, and level of education and exercise were assessed.
During a mean follow up of 14.7 years, 411 subjects developed colon cancer and 202 developed rectal cancer, Dr. Morten Grønbæk from the Centre for Alcohol Research at the National Institute of Public Health in Copenhagen and colleagues report in the June issue of the journal Gut.
While the amount and type of alcohol consumed appeared to have little bearing on colon cancer risk, there was a clear association between the amount and type of alcohol consumed and rectal cancer risk.
People who consumed more than 41 alcoholic beverages per week had a 2.2-fold higher the risk of developing rectal cancer as non-drinkers. Those who drank 14 or more drinks of beer or spirits per week, but not wine, had a 3.5-fold higher risk of developing rectal cancer compared with non-drinkers.
However, if these same drinkers of 14 or more drinks per week consumed more than 30% of their alcohol in the form of wine, they substantially lowered their risk of rectal cancer to 1.8 times that of the general population.
The authors note in their report that wine drinkers tended to have higher levels of education and be more physically active than beer or spirit drinkers, suggesting a role for lifestyle factors.
In comments to Reuters Health, Dr. Grønbæk said: “There is a relation between alcohol intake and rectal cancer, but not colon cancer. Drinkers of beer and spirits are at higher risk of developing rectal cancer than are wine drinkers.”
“If [our findings] are reproduced with similar results and differences between the effects of beer, wine, and spirits are found for other diseases, sensible drinking limits should be revised,” the researcher added