Moderate red wine consumption does not significantly increase the risk of prostate cancer according to new research, and in fact could have a slight protective effect.
Carried out by an international research team led by Shahrokh Shariat at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, the new meta-analysis looked at whether moderate wine consumption had an effect on the risk of developing prostate cancer, the most common form of cancer in the Western world.
Fifteen to 20 percent of men are affected by prostate cancer at some time in their lives and 2.6 percent die from the disease.
For their analysis, the team looked at 17 high-quality studies which included around 610,000 participants.
They found that moderate white wine consumption appeared to increase the risk of prostate cancer by 26 percent.
Moderate red wine consumption did not appear to increase the risk significantly. In fact, the team found that drinking a moderate amount of red wine even has a slightly protective effect, and could reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer by around 12 percent.
However, Shariat did point out that "moderate" means approximately one glass of red wine a day, and that the risk of cancer was not significantly increased as long as participants were also paying attention to other proven risk factors including not smoking, eating too much sugar or too much red meat.
Genetic factors can also play a role in the development of prostate cancer.
The researchers now want to find out which components of red wine have such a protective effect and whether this can also be used therapeutically -- for example, in high-risk groups.
"Indeed, it has already been shown that polyphenols, which are predominantly found in red wine, can have a protective effect in other diseases and other types of cancer," said urologist Shariat.
Red wine contains 10 times the amount of polyphenols found in white wine, which might explain the observed results.
Furthermore, the European Food Authority has confirmed that polyphenol-rich olive oil helps to protect blood lipids from oxidative stress. Polyphenols have already been shown to have a beneficial effect on platelet aggregation in the arteries and on insulin sensitivity.
"Potentially the polyphenols from red wine can be used preventatively," says Shariat. "The question is: what can we learn from the results of the study -- and how can we use that in science and preventive medicine?"
The results can be found online in the journal Clinical Epidemiology.