High Alcohol Intake in Adolescence May Affect Aggressiveness of Prostate Cancer Later in Life


Researchers investigated whether heavy alcohol consumption in early life was associated with high-grade prostate cancer in adulthood.

Heavy alcohol consumption at an early age may be linked to a 3-fold increased risk of being diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer, according to a new study published in Cancer Prevention Research.

Previous studies have supported the association between alcohol intake and increased overall cancer risk; however, researchers aimed to investigate whether alcohol consumption during adolescence is associated with more aggressive prostate cancer later in life.

Because the prostate grows rapidly during adolescence, it is potentially more susceptible to carcinogenic exposure, such as alcohol intake, at an early age, the researchers noted.

To analyze the effect of early alcohol consumption on prostate cancer development, the researchers evaluated data from 650 men undergoing prostate biopsy at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center between January 2007 and January 2018. These men had no prior history of prostate cancer and ranged in age from 40 to 89 years old.

The participants completed questionnaires that assessed the average number of alcoholic drinks consumed weekly during each decade of life to determine age-specific and cumulative lifetime alcohol intake.

According to their findings, heavy alcohol intake between the ages of 15 and 19 years was not associated with overall prostate cancer. However, men who consumed at least 7 drinks per week at this age were 3.2 times more likely to be diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer compared with non-drinkers. The researchers found similar associations for those who consumed at least 7 alcohol drinks per week from ages 20 to 29, 30 to 39, and 40 to 49 years as well, resulting in 3.14, 3.09, and 3.64 times the odds of high-grade prostate cancer, respectively.

Current alcohol consumption was not significantly associated with high-grade prostate cancer, according to the study.

Additionally, men with the highest rate of cumulative lifetime alcohol consumption had 3.2 times the odds of being diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer at biopsy than men with the lowest cumulative lifetime alcohol consumption.

The researchers identified various limitations of the study, including the reliance on self-reported data, small sample sizing, and the inability to definitively separate the potential effects of early-life exposure to alcohol from cumulative lifetime exposure.

“Our results may explain why previous evidence linking alcohol intake and prostate cancer has been somewhat mixed,” study author Emma Allott, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a statement. “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.”


Early-life Alcohol Intake May Increase the Odds of High-grade Prostate Cancer Later in Life [news release]. American Association for Cancer Research website. https://www.aacr.org/Newsroom/Pages/News-Release-Detail.aspx?ItemID=1213#.W37DacbMxPU. Accessed August 23, 2018.

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