Worried about Prostate Cancer? Put that Second Beer Down!

Thank God we got the criminals, and America got the Puritans! Australian folk saying

The above witticism has historic merit, broadly speaking, but perhaps not much relevance in today’s world. On the other hand, the question of which country has the alcoholics was addressed in 2014 by the World Health Organization’s “Global status report on alcohol and health 2014.”[i] While consumption is increasing around the world, the highest levels are in the developed world. According to one article, “The reported cited that Americans drink 7.5-9.9 liters of alcohol per person per year while Canadians gulp down more than 12.5 liters each, as do Russians and Australians.”[ii] While spirits are the most consumed alcoholic beverage, beer is not far behind. Wine, however, constitutes a mere 8%.

The form of alcohol in drinks is ethanol, a known cancer-causing agent. A group of Australian researchers wondered if the evidence in recent studies correctly connects heavy alcohol use with aggressive prostate cancer – and if so, are some beverages a bigger culprit than others. What they found is not great news for beer lovers who exceed moderate use.

The 2017 study by Papa et al.[iii] used nearly 1300 cases of aggressive prostate cancer and 951 matched controls to analyze the link between high grade/advanced prostate cancer and the alcohol intake of all participants two years before enrollment in the study. They also broke the data down according to the type of alcohol: beer, red wine, white wine and spirits.

Those who drank beer at least five days per week or more had increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer compared with those who did not drink beer. “For every 10 [grams] per week ethanol intake from beer increase, the odd of advance [prostate cancer] rose by 3%…” wrote the authors. Wine, on the other hand, offered a measure of protection against aggressive prostate cancer compared with those who drank no wine! The risk increase from drinking spirits was determined to be only marginal.

It appears, then that heavy beer consumption is the worst offender in terms of raising the probability of developing potentially lethal prostate cancer. The news is rosier for wine drinkers, since they have a lower risk of deadly prostate cancer than those who drink no wine. So is you’re a beer lover living in the U.S., Canada, Australia or anywhere else on the globe, limit yourself to 5 beers per week – and consider switching to the fruit of the vine.


[i] http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/global_alcohol_report/en/

[ii][ii] McEnaney, Michael. “World’s Top Drinkers? Canadians, Russians and Australians Top List, Americans Not Far Behind.” http://www.techtimes.com/articles/7015/20140514/worlds-top-drinkers-canadians-americans-putting-away-pretty-good-days.htm

[iii] Papa NP, MacInnis RJ, Jayasekara H, English DR et al. Total and beverage-specific alcohol intake and the risk of aggressive prostate cancer: a case-control study. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2017 Apr 18. doi: 10.1038/pcan.2017.12. [Epub ahead of print]