Home > Drinking from young age could increase the odds of aggressive prostate cancer in later life.

[Irish Cancer Society] Drinking from young age could increase the odds of aggressive prostate cancer in later life. (23 Aug 2018)

External website: https://www.cancer.ie/about-us/news/drinking-young...

Boys drinking alcohol in their mid-to-late teens may increase the odds of them developing aggressive prostate cancer in later life, research supported by the Irish Cancer Society has shown.


The research found that, compared with non-drinkers, men who had at least 7 drinks per week during the ages of 15 and 19 had 3 times the odds of being diagnosed with a ‘high-grade’ form of prostate cancer that is more difficult to treat.


The research was led by Dubliner Dr Emma Allott during her time at Gillings School of Global Public Health, located in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the US. Dr Allott’s research was funded through an international research fellowship by the Irish Cancer Society.


Previous research in this area often focused on the effect of alcohol intake on overall prostate cancer risk. Because many cases of prostate cancer are slow to progress and not an immediate threat to health, the researchers analysed whether alcohol consumption during puberty and mid-life is associated with high-grade prostate cancer in adulthood. The results of this work have today been published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.


“The prostate is an organ that grows rapidly during puberty, so it’s potentially more susceptible to carcinogenic exposure during the adolescent years,” Dr Allott explained. “For this reason, we wanted to investigate if heavy alcohol consumption in early life was associated with the aggressiveness of prostate cancer later.”


Dr Allott and colleagues evaluated data from 650 men undergoing a prostate biopsy in North Carolina between January 2007 and January 2018. These men had no prior history of prostate cancer, and their ages ranged from 49 to 89. The population was racially diverse; 54% of patients were non-white. Men completed questionnaires which assessed the average amount of alcohol they drank weekly during each decade of life to determine age-specific and cumulative lifetime alcohol intake.


The researchers found that heavy alcohol intake at ages 15-19 was not associated with overall prostate cancer in later life; however, having at least seven drinks per week during this age was associated with 3.2 times the odds of high-grade prostate cancer compared with non-drinkers. Similar associations were observed among those who took at least 7 alcoholic drinks per week in their 20s, 30s and 40s, compared with non-drinkers. However, current alcohol consumption was not significantly associated with high-grade prostate cancer.


“Our results may explain why previous evidence linking alcohol intake and prostate cancer has been somewhat mixed,” noted Dr Allott. “It’s possible that the effect of alcohol comes from a lifetime intake, or from intake earlier in life rather than alcohol patterns around the time of diagnosis of prostate cancer.”


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