Purpose: We prospectively investigated the association between alcohol consumption and prostate cancer in the Epidemiologic Follow-up Study (NHEFS) of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I).
Methods: There were two cohorts: 1) Cohort I, followed from baseline (1971-75) through 1992, included 5766 men ages 25-74 years (median follow-up = 17 years); and 2) Cohort II, followed from the first follow-up round for Cohort I (1982-84) through 1992, included the 3868 men in Cohort I free of prostate cancer in 1982-84 (median follow-up = 9 years). Alcohol consumption was assessed at baseline as usual consumption, and at follow-up as usual consumption and as distant past consumption at the ages of 25, 35, 45, and 55.
Results: There were 252 incident cases of prostate cancer. Consistent with most previous studies, we found no significant associations between usual total alcohol consumption and prostate cancer in Cohorts I or II [p = non significant (NS)], except for a significant inverse association at the heaviest level of drinking in Cohort II [relative risk (RR) = 0.23, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.06-0.95]. Further study of heavy drinkers in Cohort II revealed significant inverse associations between distant past heavy drinking (defined as > 25 drinks/week) and prostate cancer at age 25 (RR = 0.20, 95% CI = 0.06-0.63), age 35 (RR = 0.30, 95% CI = 0.12-0.77), and age 45 (RR = 0.39, 95% CI = 0.17-0.93), but not at age 55 (RR = 0.43, 95% CI = 0.17-1.10).
Conclusions: These results suggest that it may be important to consider distant past alcohol consumption in etiologic studies of prostate cancer. However, our results were based on small numbers of cases who were heavy drinkers and require replication.