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A Drink a Day Helps the Kidneys, Research Suggests

Examination of previous studies found that moderate daily consumption of alcohol lowered the risk of kidney cancer

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: June 20, 2007

Drinking alcohol in light to moderate amounts is linked to a lower risk of kidney cancer than abstaining, according to a team of researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The researchers combed through data from 12 studies on more than 750,000 men and women.

The study, published in the May 16 issue of Journal of the National Cancer Institute, followed the rates of kidney cancer in 530,469 women and 229,575 men living in five different countries, and compared the incidence of the disease to the drinking habits of the volunteers. The research team, led by Jung Eun Lee, ScD, found that those who had a drink a day or more showed a 28 percent lower risk of renal cancer. Lee added that maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking are the best ways to reduce the risk of cancer, and that "these healthy lifestyle choices should be encouraged, and doing so may also reduce the risk of many other cancers as well as cardiovascular disease."

Previous studies have provided inconsistent results, Lee said, and were based on comparatively smaller numbers of cases. But in this meta-analysis, 1,430 cases of kidney cancer occurred during the course of the research.

Though wine showed a slightly higher level of protection, the study concluded that how much one drinks--not what type of beverage--had a much greater impact on the risk of renal cancer. Those who had roughly a half-glass of wine per day showed a 3 percent lower risk of developing renal cancer, and those who had about a glass of wine per day showed 18 percent lower risk. Those who had 1.5 glasses per day showed 28 percent lower risk.

The researchers added that alcohol may help improve insulin sensitivity and work as an antioxidant, thereby clearing out harmful and potentially cancer-causing elements in the organ. However, the researchers warned against consistent, heavier drinking as a way to avoid the risks of renal cancer, since so few of the study's participants were heavy drinkers.

The results add to existing evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may be good for the kidneys. A study conducted from 1982 to 1995 found that a drink or two may help prevent kidney failure.

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