Red wine may protect against the development of lung cancer in men, suggests research in Thorax, with each daily glass conferring additional benefit. No other type of alcohol seemed to have the same effect, the study found.
The researchers assessed the lifestyles of 132 patients with lung cancer and 187 patients requiring minor surgery at the same hospital in north west Spain between 1999 and 2000.
Everyone was asked about their diet, smoking habits, occupation, and the type and quantity of alcohol they drank every day, including whether they drank red, white, or rosé wine.
Most of the patients were men and in their early 60s. Around one in three were ex smokers, but almost 60% of the lung cancer patients were current smokers, compared with around one in four of the other patients. The lung cancer patients were also more likely to have worked in jobs putting them at risk of the disease.
One in four of the cancer patients didn't drink, compared with almost one in five of the routine surgery patients. Patients with lung cancer also drank more spirits, but beer consumption was roughly the same.
Both groups drank similar amounts of wine at around 3.5 glasses a day, but just over a third of the lung cancer patients drank red wine compared with over half of the other patients.
Compared with non-drinkers, each daily glass of red wine afforded 13% protection against lung cancer. Rosé wine had no impact, and white wine seemed to have the opposite effect, although far fewer patients drank white wine. Neither beer nor sprits seemed to affect the development of cancer.
The results held true even after taking account of the amount of tobacco smoked, job type, and the total quantity of alcohol consumed.
The authors say that the beneficial effects of red wine may be down to tannins, which have antioxidant properties, and resveratrol, which has been shown to stifle tumour development and growth in experimental research.
Despite the good news for lovers of red wine, the authors caution against drinking several glasses a day in a bid to ward off lung cancer, because of the overall adverse effects on health of high alcohol consumption.