Light drinking may prevent colon polyps

May 20, 2003 in Cancer Prevention, Gastrointestinal Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Light drinking may prevent colon polyps

New research from New York suggests moderate drinking may help prevent the growth of cancer-linked polyps. The study found it didn't matter what type of alcohol it was -- beer, wine, or distilled spirits.

Colon cancer remains a leading cause of cancer death. However, experts now recommend routine colon cancer screening for every adult over 50 years of age, to help spot suspicious growths called polyps. If they're left alone for long enough, some of them will grow to become cancers say experts.

The researchers wondered if specific lifestyle factors might influence the risk of polyp development. They asked over 600 healthy, older adult patients coming into their hospital's endoscopy unit to fill out questionnaires detailing diet, smoking, drinking and medical histories prior to undergoing a screening test called colonoscopy. Polyps were found in 30% of patients.

The main findings were that mild-to-moderate drinkers were less likely to have a colon polyp than non- drinkers. In fact, risk for polyps dropped a full 80% in the light-drinking group compared with teetotalers, the researchers found. They defined mild-to-moderate drinking as about one or two drinks daily.

The researchers speculate that alcohol may help suppress the activity of oncogenes, specific genes that are thought to spur the growth of both benign polyps and malignant tumors. They stressed that only light drinking appears to benefit colon health. In fact, as the amount of alcohol consumption increases, the heavy drinkers ... tend to have a high risk of colon polyps.

They cautioned that more research needs to be done to confirm these results in larger and more varied populations.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.