Study Suggests Red Wine May Protect Against Lung Cancer

But authors say research, which focused on men, doesn't mean it's OK to smoke

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HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 7, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Men who drink a moderate amount of red wine may lower their risk of lung cancer, even if they smoke, researchers report.

"An antioxidant component in red wine may help to prevent lung cancer," said lead researcher Chun Chao, a research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation. "The findings provide an impetus for future research to find out if there is something in red wine that may help to either prevent or treat lung cancer."

But the researchers cautioned that the findings don't mean that it's OK to smoke.

For the study, Chao's group collected data on 84,170 men who participated in the California Men's Health Study. Among these men, the researchers identified 210 cases of lung cancer.

The researchers found that there was, on average, a 2 percent lower risk of lung cancer associated with each glass of red wine consumed per month.

The greatest reduction was among men who smoked and drank one to two glasses of red wine a day. These men lowered their risk for lung cancer by 60 percent, Chao's group found.

The reduction wasn't as pronounced among nonsmokers who drank one to two glasses of red wine a day. And no reduction in risk for lung cancer was associated with white wine, beer or liquor, the researchers said.

Despite the findings, Chao warned against thinking that smoking and drinking red wine can actually prevent lung cancer.

"Men who smoke should stop smoking," she said. "Even men who drink one or two glasses of red wine per day still face a greater risk of lung cancer than do nonsmokers. This study should not be used as an excuse to drink more red wine. Moderation is always the best course."

The findings were published in the October issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, the American Cancer Society's deputy chief medical officer, doesn't think that one study proves that red wine will protect you from lung cancer.

"It's an interesting study, and it raises interesting questions about whether or not there is a cancer protective effect in red wine," he said. "It is important that this be looked at further to see if that association holds up."

Lichtenfeld noted that there have been previous reports of a benefit of red wine for cancer prevention that didn't pan out. "Before we get overly excited about this, we really need to see these effects replicated," he said.

"Clearly, we aren't recommending that smokers go out and start consuming large amounts of red wine as a potential protection from getting lung cancer," he added. "There are other research reports that show that any alcohol, including red wine, can increase the risk of other cancers such as breast cancer."

More information

For more on lung cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute.

SOURCES: Chun Rebecca Chao, Ph.D., research scientist, Department of Research and Evaluation, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Pasadena; Leonard Lichtenfeld, M.D., deputy chief medical officer, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; October 2008, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention

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