Alcohol makes cancer tumours ’grow faster’
Having just two alcoholic drinks a day can cause cancer tumours to grow more rapidly and make them bigger, a new US study has claimed.
University of Mississippi research shows that alcohol seems to increase the body’s production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which can aid the growth of tumours by helping them develop a system of blood vessels which they would otherwise die without.
The researchers, led by the study’s author Professor Wei Tan, looked at the effect of alcohol on tumours in mice.
Instead of giving the mice large amounts of alcohol, they gave them only the equivalent of two to four glasses a day.
Six mice were given drinking water with one per cent alcohol for eight hours each night during the month-long experiment. In the second week the mice were injected with mouse melanoma.
Bacchus by Guido Reni
Professor Tan found that the mice who had the alcohol, compared to the group who were given plain drinking water were almost twice as heavy, showed a dramatic increase in blood capillaries and had more VEGF in their system.
Co-researcher Professor Jian- WeiGu said the study showed that people with cancer should not drink at all. He also said that usually the body’s immune system can fight off small tumours, but that alcohol could make them grow so big that the immune system could not cope.
Professor Tan concluded: “It’s very important to have a model of how to prevent cancer, and this study provides that model.
Epidemiologists have recognised alcohol as a risk factor for cancer for 100 years, but this study examines how that happens.”
The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology Conference 2006 in San Francisco at the beginning of April.
Alcohol Alert (2006) is published by The Institute of Alcohol Studies an initiative of the Alliance House Foundation, www.ias.org.uk