Red wine not recommended for cancer prevention, says Cancer Research UK

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer Research UK has advised against drinking red wine to reduce the risk of cancer, despite a new US study suggesting that a substance in red grapes and wine may have the potential to prevent breast cells from becoming cancerous.

Scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre have carried out early laboratory research that suggests that a compound called resveratrol may suppress the abnormal cell formation that leads to some breast cancers.

However, Cancer Research UK has emphasised that the studies were carried out on cells in the laboratory and that there is no evidence to suggest that drinking red wine may reduce a person's risk of breast cancer.

The study, which was led by Dr Eleanor Rogan, a professor at the university's Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases, looked at the effect of the natural substance resveratrol on certain cellular processes that contribute to breast cancer.

They found that resveratrol appears to suppress the formation of DNA adducts - pieces of DNA that have bonded to a cancer-causing chemical, or in the case of some breast cancers, oestrogen. The formation of these adducts could be an early event in the development of breast cancer.

The findings are published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, and Dr Rogan commented: "Resveratrol has the ability to prevent the first step that occurs when oestrogen starts the process that leads to cancer by blocking the formation of the oestrogen DNA adducts.

"We believe that this could stop the whole progression that leads to breast cancer down the road," the scientist suggested.

Dr Rogan revealed that resveratrol appears to work by inducing an enzyme that makes oestrogen inactive and that fairly low concentrations were required to stop oestrogen from reacting with DNA molecules - equivalent to that found in a typical small glass of red wine.

However, Dr Rogan acknowledged that the research was based on laboratory cultures and has not been subjected to clinical trials.

This point has also been emphasised by Cancer Research UK.

Henry Scowcroft said: "From the point of view of cancer prevention, there is no such thing as 'good alcohol'. Overwhelming evidence suggests that, even in moderate amounts, alcohol increases the risk of several cancers including breast cancer.

"It is possible that resveratrol, on its own, may one day be developed into a cancer preventing drug, but any beneficial effects it has in red wine are most likely completely outweighed by the alcohol."