Log In / Join Now

Compound Found in Red Wine May Kill Breast Cancer Cells, New Research Finds

Resveratrol killed cancer cells in a petri dish, but may not work the same way in people, the scientists caution.

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: June 12, 2004

Research conducted at the University of Porto in Portugal indicates that certain chemicals found abundantly in plant-based beverages, such as red wine, beer and tea, may help kill off breast cancer cells.

Three polyphenolic compounds -- including resveratrol, which is believed to be a factor in red wine's potential health benefits -- were found to "contribute to a significant decrease in breast cancer cell proliferation," the study's authors reported.

Numerous previous studies have linked alcohol consumption to a possible higher risk of breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women. It is theorized that alcohol affects the levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, which may trigger breast cells to become cancerous.

However, past research has also shown that compounds in red wine can "confer protective effects on the cardiovascular system and have anticancer, antiviral and antiallergic properties," the researchers in Portugal wrote, explaining what prompted their study.

Their findings were presented at the annual Experimental Biology conference in Washington, D.C., hosted from April 17 to 21, by the American Physiological Society.

The three study authors, led by researcher Sandra Pinheiro-Silva, cultured cancerous breast cells in petri dishes. The cells were then exposed to either epigallocatechin gallate, xanthohumol or resveratrol, which are found in significant concentrations in tea, beer and red wine, respectively.

Resveratrol occurs naturally in grapes, certain nuts and berries and even some types of wheat. Recent studies have shown that the compound may help lower cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health, reduce the growth of skin melanomas and prevent some other types of cancer.

Every 24 hours, the scientists measured the ratio of live cells to dead cells in the petri dishes. After 24 hours, the beer and red wine compounds were found to have markedly reduced the number of live cancer cells in the dish. The tea compound was less potent and didn't begin to kill off cells effectively until around 72 hours of exposure.

The scientists wrote that their results should not encourage women to drink, as the study did not look at the effects of resveratrol as a part of alcohol consumption. They say more studies are needed to see how the polyphenols are metabolized and utilized in the human body.

# # #

For a comprehensive look at the potential health benefits of drinking wine, check out senior editor Per-Henrik Mansson's feature Eat Well, Drink Wisely, Live Longer: The Science Behind A Healthy Life With Wine

Read more about red wine polyphenols:

  • Nov. 3, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Shows Potential for Alleviating Bronchitis, Emphysema, Research Finds

  • Sept. 10, 2003
    Researchers Discover New Potentially Beneficial Compounds in Wine

  • Aug. 26, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound May Hold Secret to Fountain of Youth, Harvard Researchers Believe

  • May 30, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Might Help Prevent Cancer-Causing Sunburns, Study Finds

  • May 23, 2003
    Red-Wine Polyphenol May Help Keep the Heart Healthy, Research Finds

  • May 1, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Shows Potential for Fighting Skin Cancer

  • Feb. 4, 2002
    Red-Wine Extract Extends Shelf Life of Fruit

  • Nov. 7, 2002
    Red-Wine Compound to Be Tested As Anti-Cancer Drug

  • April 15, 2002
    Study Sheds New Light on How Red Wine May Help Fight Cancer

  • June 30, 2000
    Scientists Uncover Why Resveratrol May Help Prevent Cancer

  • Feb. 28, 1997
    Red Wine Contains Potential Anti-Cancer Agent

    Read more about the potential health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption:

  • Oct. 3, 2003
    The Beer Gut Takes a One-Two Punch: Research Finds Drinking May Not Lead to Weight Gain

  • Sept. 24, 2003
    Women Who Drink Wine More Likely to Become Pregnant, Research Shows

  • Sept. 22, 2003
    Moderate Wine Drinking May Reduce Risk of Rectal Cancer, Study Shows

  • Sept. 10, 2003
    Researchers Discover New Potentially Beneficial Compounds in Wine

  • Aug. 26, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound May Hold Secret to Fountain of Youth, Harvard Researchers Believe

  • Aug. 22, 2003
    Doctors Should Start Recommending Alcohol Consumption, Argue Australian Researchers

  • July 22, 2003
    Risk of Diabetes Lower in Young Women Who Drink Moderately, Harvard Study Finds

  • June 4, 2003
    Moderate Drinking May Reduce Tumors in the Colon

  • May 30, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Might Help Prevent Cancer-Causing Sunburns, Study Finds

  • May 23, 2003
    Red-Wine Polyphenol May Help Keep the Heart Healthy, Research Finds

  • May 1, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Shows Potential for Fighting Skin Cancer

  • April 25, 2003
    Grape-Seed Extract to Be Tested for Effectiveness in Reducing Scars From Radiation Treatments

  • April 11, 2003
    Light to Moderate Drinking May Be Associated With Lower Rates of Dementia in Elderly, Says Study

  • Feb. 26, 2003
    New Research Sheds More Light on Link Between Drinking and Stroke Risk

  • Jan. 31, 2003
    French Scientists Develop White Wine That Acts Like a Red

  • Jan. 16, 2003
    Wine, Beer Wipe Out Ulcer-Causing Bacteria, Study Shows

  • Jan. 10, 2003
    Frequent Drinking Lowers Chance of Heart Attack, Study Shows

  • Jan. 7, 2003
    Drinking Has Little Effect on Risk of Lung Cancer, Research Finds

  • Dec. 24, 2002
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Be Better for Women's Hearts Than for Men's, Canadian Study Finds

  • Dec 23, 2002
    Moderate Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Dementia, Study Finds

  • Nov. 7, 2002
    Red-Wine Compound to Be Tested As Anti-Cancer Drug

  • Nov. 5, 2002
    Drink to Your Health and Pour Some on the Counter, Too

  • Nov. 4, 2002
    Moderate Wine-Drinking May Help Prevent Second Heart Attack, French Study Finds

  • Aug. 31, 2002
    Wine Drinkers Have Healthier Habits, Study Reports

  • Aug. 22, 2002
    Red Wine Helps Keep Obese People Heart-Healthy, Study Finds

  • July 24, 2002
    Red Wine May Help Fight Prostate Cancer, Spanish Study Finds

  • June 11, 2002
    Wine Consumption, Especially White, May Be Good for the Lungs, Study Finds

  • June 3, 2002
    Moderate Drinking May Decrease Women's Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

  • May 15, 2002
    Wine Drinkers Less Likely to Catch Common Cold, Research Finds

  • April 15, 2002
    Study Sheds New Light on How Red Wine May Help Fight Cancer

  • Jan. 31, 2002
    Moderate Drinking May Be Good for the Brain, Not Just the Heart, New Study Finds

  • Jan. 31, 2002
    Wine Drinking May Reduce Risk of Dementia in Elderly, Italian Study Finds

  • Jan. 21, 2002
    English Scientists Claim to Crack French Paradox

  • Dec. 31, 2001
    New Study Sheds More Light on Antioxidants in Red Wine

  • Dec. 13, 2001
    Moderate Drinking Does Not Reduce Chance of Becoming Pregnant, Research Finds

  • Nov. 27, 2001
    Moderate Drinking Can Slow Hardening of Arteries, New Research Shows

  • Nov. 6, 2001
    Study Examines Drinking's Effect on Brain Health in Elderly

  • Aug. 15, 2001
    Wine Drinkers Smarter, Richer and Healthier, Danish Study Finds

  • April 25, 2001
    Chemical Compound Found in Red Wine May Lead to Treatment for Prostate Cancer

  • April 20, 2001
    Drinking Wine After a Heart Attack May Help Prevent Another, Study Finds

  • Jan. 9, 2001
    Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Strokes in Women, Finds CDC Study

  • Sept. 30, 2000
    Wine May Have More Health Benefits Than Beer and Liquor

  • Aug. 7, 2000
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Reduce Women's Risk of Heart Disease, New Study Shows

  • July 25, 2000
    Harvard Study Examines the Role of Moderate Consumption in Women's Diets

  • June 30, 2000
    Scientists Uncover Why Resveratrol May Help Prevent Cancer

  • May 31, 2000
    Moderate Consumption Still Part of Healthy Diet

  • May 22, 2000
    Moderate Drinking May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes, Study Finds

  • May 17, 2000
    European Study Links Wine Drinking to Lower Risk of Brain Deterioration in Elderly

  • May 12, 2000
    Wine May Increase Bone Mass in Elderly Women, Study Finds

  • Feb. 4, 2000
    Dietary Guidelines Committee Revises Recommendations on Alcohol

  • Dec. 17, 1999
    Moderate Drinking Can Cut Heart Attacks By 25 Percent

  • Nov. 25, 1999
    Study Finds Moderate Drinking Cuts Risk of Common Strokes

  • Nov. 10, 1999
    Study Points to Potential Benefits of Alcohol for Heart Patients

  • Jan. 26, 1999
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption Cuts Risk of Stroke for Elderly

  • Jan. 19, 1999
    Light Drinkers Face No Added Risk of Breast Cancer

  • Jan. 5, 1999
    New Studies Link Wine and Health Benefits

  • Oct. 31, 1998
    Here's to Your Health: Is it now "medically correct" for a physician to prescribe a little wine to lower the risk of heart disease?

  • Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

    Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
    To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

    WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.