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Colorectal Cancer Protection

In a finding that counters conventional thinking about the relationship between alcohol use and colorectal cancer, drinking at least one glass of wine per week may actually protect against the development of the disease, whereas beer or mixed drinks do not.

Results of this new research were presented at the 65th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), October 16-18th.

In the study, researchers from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, led by Catherine R. Messina, Ph.D., prospectively analyzed results of 1,500 consecutive colonoscopies performed between August 1999 and April 2000. Patients with a history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or polyps were excluded. The investigators found that only one percent of wine drinkers had significant colorectal polyps, compared with 18 percent of beer or grain-based liquor drinkers, and 12 percent of those who abstain. The results were statistically significant.

The researchers defined "alcohol use" as a glass of wine, a can of beer, or one ounce of liquor at least once a week.

Previous research has suggested that alcohol use may increase the risk for developing colorectal cancer. The study by Messina and coworkers analyzed cancer risk according to type of alcoholic beverage. To minimize the effects of bias, they examined data from a large series of consecutive colonoscopies.

The study found that wine drinkers were far less likely to have significant colorectal pathology than those who drank grain-based liquors or even those who abstained. Drinking moderate amounts of wine has already been shown to have beneficial effects on the heart.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, trailing only lung cancer. More than 56,000 Americans will die in 2000 from the disease, and more than 130,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year. Previous research has shown that up to 90% of colorectal cancer deaths can be prevented through regular screening, early detection, and timely removal of precancerous polyps.

The ACG was formed in 1932 to advance the scientific study and medical treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. The College promotes the highest standards in medical education and is guided by its commitment to meeting the needs of clinical gastroenterology practitioners. Consumers can get more information on gastrointestinal disorders through the following ACG-sponsored programs:

1-800-978-7666 (free brochures on common gastrointestinal disorders, including ulcers, colon cancer, gallstones, and liver disease)

1-800-HRT-BURN (free brochure and video on heartburn and GERD), (ACG's Web site)

This story has been adapted from a news release issued by American College Of Gastroenterology.

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