Red Wine vs. Colon Cancer

Study Shows Abnormal Colon Growths Less Likely in Those Who Drink Red Wine

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 24, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 24, 2006 -- People who drink three or more glasses of red wine a week are less likely to get the abnormal colon growths that can lead to cancer, according to a new study.

The study was done by Joseph Anderson, MD, and colleagues at New York's Stony Brook University. It was presented at the American College of Gastroenterology's annual scientific meeting in Las Vegas.

The study looked at the habits of more than 1,700 people who were, on average, in their late 50s. It also checked for the incidence of abnormal colon growths, including polyps.

The researchers found that 3% of red wine drinkers had such abnormal growths, compared with nearly 9% of white wine drinkers and almost 10% of teetotalers.

The study doesn't prove red wine prevents or treats colon cancer, and the researchers aren't recommending red wine for colon cancer prevention.

But they suggest that a compound found in grapes and red wine - the antioxidant resveratrol -- may cut the odds of getting abnormal colon growths that can become cancerous.

No Recommendations

Colon cancer is the No. 3 cancer for U.S. men and women.

Doctors often can't explain why one person gets cancer and another doesn't. Many factors may play a role.

Anderson doesn't recommend drinking red wine if you don't already drink. In an American College of Gastroenterology news release, he says a healthy lifestyle is essential in cutting the risk of abnormal colon growths.

Whether you drink or not, it is also important to get screened as recommended. Tests are generally recommended for everyone starting at age 50, although they may begin earlier for high-risk patients.

About the Study

The study gathered information about the 1,700 participants' smoking, drinking, exercise, diets, BMI (body mass index), and use of painkilling nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Most participants said they never drank.

But 176 said they drank red wine more than three times a week, and 68 said they drank white wine more than three times weekly.

Those who drank three or more glasses of red wine a week were the least likely to have abnormal colon growths, including polyps.

However, the red wine drinkers had other traits that may have cut their cancer risk. They tended not to smoke and to be male.

Red Wine Advantage?

The researchers aren't sure why the red wine drinkers had fewer abnormal colon growths.

But they suggest resveratrol may play a role. The compound is found in grapes, raspberries, peanuts, and other plants.

Red wine is richer in this antioxidant than white wine.

That's "because the [grape] skins are removed earlier during white-wine production," Anderson explains in the news release.

Show Sources

SOURCES: American College of Gastroenterology's Annual Scientific Meeting, Las Vegas, Oct. 20-25, 2006. National Cancer Institute: "Red Wine and Cancer Prevention." News release, American College of Gastroenterology.
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