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Drinking beer prevents prostate cancer?

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By David Liu

There are some study reports suggesting that beer consumption would increase or decrease prostate cancer.  We summarize a few to let readers decide what benefits they can get from drinking beer.  Keep in mind that alcoholic beverages are recognized by the U.S. National Toxicology Program as a human carcinogen.

Study of culture cells

A study conducted by Emily Ho and colleagues from Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University suggests that beer may prevent prostate cancer.

This is so because one compound xanthohumol found in hops which render flavor and bitterness of the beverage has shown promise in slowing down growth of cells that cause enlarged prostates.

The compound is said to be able to cause programmed cell death or apoptosis, which normally does not occur in cancerous cells leading to growth of a cancerous mass. 

The researchers found xanthohumol in a cell culture blocks the signaling of NF-KappaB protein slowing the growth of benign prostatic hyperplasia and malignant prostate cancer cells.

Ho warned consumers against jump starting beer consumption in the name of prostate cancer prevention because she said cited by about.com that the amount of xanthohumol present in beer is too small to have an protective effect against the cancer.

The amount of xanthohumol used in cell cultures to have an effect was equivalent to the amount present in 17 beers.  And because drinking too much alcoholic beverage has been associated with a number of cancers, drinking beer is not a way to prevent prostate cancer.

Study of rats

A new animal study presented Dec 9, 2009 at a conference of the American Association for Cancer Research in Houston suggests that xanthohumol works in rats to help prevent prostate cancer.

Clarissa Gerhauser and colleagues at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg conducted the animal study, the first of its kind, to demonstrate that the hop flavonoid prevents prostate cancer.

Early studies have already shown xanthohumol blocks estrogen by binding to its receptor, which would lead to prevention of breast cancer. 

Because of this, the researchers figured that the same beer compound should act in similar ways to block testosterone receptors leading to reduced risk of prostate cancer.

For the study, hormone sensitive prostate cancer cells were exposed to testosterone leading to a massive secretion of prostate specific antigen (PSA), an indicator for the growth of prostate cells.

When cells were treated with testosterone and xanthohumol, secretion of PSA was inhibited in a dose-dependent manner.

When testosterone and the hop compound were injected into castrated rats, this beer compound blocked the effect of testosterone on the prostate, which potentially helps prevent prostate cancer.

Still there is some doubt about the anticancer effect because the number of PSA is not always reliable as an indicator for the risk of prostate cancer. 

More studies like epidemiologic studies are needed to confirm whether drinking beer is associated with reduced risk of the male cancer.

If it is proved that this hop ingredient works, then supplementation of hops or some hop extract may serve as a better dietary supplement for men to use to prevent state cancer. 

Prostate cancer is diagnosed in about 200,000 men in the US each year and it kills about 27,000 annually.

Study links alcohol to elevated prostate cancer risk

Unfortunately, the alcohol or whatever else other than xanthohumol in beer may offset the protective effect from the beer ingredient.

One study conducted by researchers at Curtin University in Australia reviewed 45 studies on drinking and risk of prostate cancer and found heavy drinkers (drinking 14 or more alcoholic drinks per week) were at 20 percent increased risk.

The study results suggest that moderate drinking may protect older men from heart disease (even this may not be really true because critics have said many studies were flawed), they may raise their risk for getting prostate cancer, according to inventorspot.com.

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