Daily Glass of Wine Lowers Esophageal Cancer Risk

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Wine and Esophageal Cancer Risk
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Wine has been shown to lower the risk of Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition that is a precursor to esophageal cancer. However, drinking liquor and wine did not show the same positive results. Cancer of the esophagus is one of the fastest growing cancers in America.

One glass of wine a day lowers the risk of Barrett’s Esophagus that can lead to cancer of the esophagus by fifty-five percent, according to findings from the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. Chronic heartburn and gastric reflux leads to Barrett’s Esophagus. Over time, changes occur in the cells that line the esophagus, leading to esophageal cancer, one of the fastest growing types of cancer in America.

Approximately five percent of the population is affected with Barrett’s esophagus. Simply drinking one glass of wine a day reduces the risk of cancer from Barrett’s esophagus significantly.

Once Barrett’s esophagus develops, there is no treatment. Study investigator, Douglas A. Corley, MD, a Kaiser Permanente gastroenterologist says, "The rate of esophageal adenocarcinoma in this country is skyrocketing yet very little is known about its precursor, Barrett's Esophagus. We are trying to figure out how to prevent changes that may lead to esophageal cancer." Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer of the esophagus.

The researchers looked at 953 men and women living in Northern California, between 2002 and 2005. People who drank one or more glasses of wine daily had more than half the risk of developing esophageal cancer from Barrett’s Esophagus. Drinking beer and liquor did not show the same benefits for reducing the risk of Barrett’s Esophagus.

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Another finding of the study included reducing the risk of esophageal cancer by consuming eight servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

"My advice to people trying to prevent Barrett's Esophagus is: keep a normal body weight and follow a diet high in antioxidants and high in fruits and vegetables. We already knew that red wine was good for the heart, so perhaps here is another added benefit of a healthy lifestyle and a single glass of wine a day," says Dr. Corley.

Beneficial antioxidants in wine may be the reason for the reduction in the risk of developing Barrett's Esophagus and esophageal cancer, though the reasons are not entirely clear. Another reason may be that people eat when they drink wine, rather than drinking without the benefit of food as a buffer, as might be the case with beer and liquor.

More wine did not lower the risk of Barrett's Esophagus and esophageal cancer. There were no benefits associated with more than one to two glasses of wine a day.

The study also reminds us that maintaining a normal weight helps reduce acid reflux, which leads to Barrett’s Esophagus, in turn leading to cancer of the esophagus. Decreasing the risk of esophageal cancer by consuming one to two glasses of wine daily is attainable for most.

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