A study, published this month in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, And Prevention, has suggested that smokers may be able to reduce their risk of developing lung cancer by as much as 60% by consuming at least one glass of red wine each day.
The study was conducted by scientists at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, and involved the study of 84,170 men aged between 45 and 69. During the six year study, 210 of the men developed lung cancer. The researchers looked at the effect of beer, red wine, white wine, and liquor consumption on the risk of developing lung cancer.
For individuals who had ever smoked, red wine was associated with a significant decrease in the risk of developing lung cancer. Lung cancer risk was lowered by 2% for each drink of red wine consumed per month. For heavy smokers, the risk of lung cancer was decreased by 4% for each additional drink of red wine.
The researchers calculated that one or two standard drinks of red wine each day could reduce a smokers risk of developing lung cancer by 60%.
In contrast, no association was found between white wine, beer, or liquor, and the risk of developing lung cancer.
The researchers could not establish a clear relationship between lung cancer and red wine in non-smokers. This was due in part to the very small number of non-smokers in the study who went on to develop lung cancer. The lifetime risk of developing lung cancer is just 1.3% in non-smokers compared to more than 13% for smokers.
The authors believe that the relatively high levels of beneficial chemicals and antioxidants found in red wine might explain the observed results. In particular resveratrol, which is found almost exclusively in red wine, has been found to inhibit cancerous cell growth in the lab by reducing tumour cell proliferation and inducing apoptosis (programmed cell destruction) of the cancerous cells.
The researchers add that the best way for a smoker to reduce their lung cancer risk is still to quit smoking because smokers who consume a glass of red wine a day are still much more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers.
The authors caution that the results should not be extrapolated to heavy alcohol consumption because beyond two glasses of red wine a day, the negative effects of alcohol, such as liver damage and an increase in the risk of oral and oesophageal cancers, begin to outweigh any benefits.
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