Dr. Alicja Wolk from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, and colleagues investigated the association of different types of alcoholic beverages and of total alcohol consumption with the risk of kidney cancer in a large population-based study in Sweden.
The study involved 855 subjects with kidney cancer and 1204 "controls" without cancer. They reported their alcohol consumption in terms of standard portion sizes — a glass of beer being 200 milliliters, a glass of wine being 100 mL, and a glass of strong wine or hard liquor equal to 40 mL.
The investigators rated the alcohol content of different beverages: medium-strong beer had 2.8 grams alcohol per 100 g, red wine had 9.9 g per 100 g, and hard liquor 32 g alcohol per 100 g.
The team found that the odds of developing kidney cell cancer was about 40-percent lower among those who consumed 620 g ethanol per month compared to those who did not drink at all.
Drinking more than two glasses of red wine per week was associated with a 40-percent reduction in kidney cell cancer risk compared with drinking no red wine, the investigators observed, and there were similar trends for more than two glasses per week of white wine or strong beer.
In contrast, there was no relation between kidney cell cancer risk and consumption of light beer, medium-strong beer, strong wine, or hard liquor.
"A reduced risk associated with consumption of wine and beer might be due to the phenolics they contain as these possess antioxidant and antimutagenic properties," the authors speculate.
"However, the lower risk that we observed for three different alcoholic beverages and total ethanol intake suggests that alcohol itself rather than a particular type of drink is responsible for the reduction in risk.