Despite being so common, Emma Allott, senior author of the study, said there has been little research done on how early lifestyle and diet factors affect prostate cancer.
“There was a recent report from the World Cancer Research Fund this year that recommended avoiding alcohol for cancer prevention purposes, but the majority of research in alcohol and cancer comes from cancers other than prostate,” Allott said. “Very little is known about role of alcohol with prostate cancer, so I believed we needed more research to specifically study prostate cancer.”
The study, led by Allott and other collaborators, analyzed the lifestyle questionnaires collected from 650 men in Freedland’s prostate biopsy group over the last 10 years. They found men who reported drinking a heavier alcohol intake, categorized in the study as at least seven drinks per week, during their teenage years, were three times as likely to be diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer.
“It’s definitely too soon to make any recommendations to college-aged students based on this study,” Allot said. “From this preliminary evidence, it does seem like it’s possible that there might be value to studying early lifestyle factors to prostate cancer, but again, the research is at an early point - it’s too early to make recommendations to individuals.”
Michael said the study found similar trends with other age groups, meaning further research is needed to say the effect is happening in the teenage years.
“It’s not a thing where a physician would counsel a patient about alcohol and prostate cancer yet, because we can’t say with enough certainty, but alcohol is linked with other health conditions, and it’s widely accepted in the scientific community that it’s linked with other cancers,” she said. “In general, it’s always a good idea to watch alcohol consumption, especially in the environment where it’s very common.”
The study specifically collected data from veterans, which Allott said makes it difficult for the data to be generalizable to the U.S. population. Allott said she is planning some funding applications to continue studying this topic.
Michael, who is not longer working with the biopsy research group, said no definitive claims can be made from this one study.
“This study kind of points us in a direction that might be interesting for future research, which is just looking at these earlier lifetime periods, especially because that’s when the prostate is really growing and evolving, so it would make sense that toxic exposures during that time would be very influential,” she said.
Along with Allott, Michael and Freedland, Lauren Howard, Sarah Markt, Amanda De Hoedt, Charlotte Bailey and Lorelei Mucci were also contributors.