The antioxidants present in red wine were proposed to play a key role in the prevention of lung cancer, particularly amongst smokers, according to findings published in the October edition of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
Although expert advice is clearly to avoid tobacco smoke altogether, the results suggest smokers could benefit from moderate consumption of red wine.
One in three Europeans are smokers, while the US figure is one in five. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 compounds, of which 60 are known carcinogens. The oxidative stress levels of smokers are significantly greater than non-smokers, and as such there is a bigger drain on the levels of antioxidants in the body.
The study is the first to take into account such lung cancer-related factors such as passive smoking, socio-economic status and dietary intake, all of which are known to be associated with alcoholic intake, said researchers from the Kasier Permanente Department of Research and Evaluation.
The study involved the analysis of data of 78,168 men from the California Men’s Health Study (CMHS), which was set up to investigate the causes of various types of cancer.
The male subjects were aged between 45 and 69 who are members of the Kasier Permanente California prepaid health plan. Questionnaires were used to analyse lifestyle factors, and demographics of the men, while a food frequency questionnaire was used to determine dietary intake.
Frequency of consumption of beer, wine (red, white and rosé) and liquor was also assessed with regard to the number of drinks taken each day, week, or month, whilst taking into account the serving size in relation to an established standard.
Tobacco smoking was established by distinguishing ever-smokers (those participants who had smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetime) from those who had never smoked. Duration of quitting was determined amongst former smokers. Amongst ever-smokers, pack-year history, a quantification determined by multiplying the number of packs of (20) cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years smoked was also recorded. This information was taken into account when compiling the results.
The researchers also collected information on exposure to secondhand smoke at home, work and other locations.
During the study 210 cases of lung cancer were recorded.
All things in moderation
Dr Chao and her colleagues reported that there was on average a 2 per cent lower risk of lung cancer associated with each glass of red wine consumed per month. Amongst ever-smokers with a pack-year history of at least 20 years, this figure rose to 4 per cent.
The group which saw the most dramatic results was those who smoked and drank at least one glass of red wine a day. The researchers reported a reduced risk of lung cancer of 60 per cent amongst these men – when compared to other smokers.
The researchers found no clear association between the consumption of other types of alcohol and risk of lung cancer. “However,” they said, “an inverse association for red wine use was consistently observed, particularly among ever-smokers… With a stronger association seen among those who smoked at least 20 pack-years in their lifetime. This finding, if confirmed, is of interest for lung cancer chemoprevention in current and former smokers.”
The researchers pointed out that while both red and white wines contain antioxidants, their concentration is much higher in red wine, which contains high levels of flavonoids and resveratrol, a compound which has previously been linked to health benefits. They added that “the lack of association for white wine lends support to a causal association for red wine and suggests that compounds that are present at high concentrations in red wine but not in white wine, beer, or liquors may be protective against lung carcinogenesis”.
In any case, the researchers made clear that their results “cannot be extrapolated to heavy alcohol consumption” and stated that in spite of the suggested relationship between red wine and reduced risk of lung cancer, further research was needed to examine the effect of the chemopreventive agents found in red wine separately from other types of alcohol.
Source: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & PreventionVolume 17, Issue 10, pp. 2692-2699“Alcoholic Beverage Intake and Risk of Lung Cancer: The California Men’s Health Study”Authors: C. Chao, J.M. Slezak, B.J. Caan, and V.P. Quinn