Red wine may have some effect in inhibiting the hormone that causes breast cancer, a study has found.
The study at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that chemicals in the skins and seeds of red grapes slightly lowered oestrogen levels among premenopausal women.
The same effect was not seen in white wine.
The study, published online in the Journal of Women’s Health, challenges the widely-held belief that all types of alcohol consumption heighten the risk of developing breast cancer.
Alcohol is known to increase levels of oestrogen, which fosters the growth of cancer cells.
However, the research at Cedars-Sinai suggests red wine acts differently, appearing to block the process that converts hormones such as testosterone – which is present in women’s bodies – into oestrogen.
In the study, 36 women drank either Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay daily for almost a month, then switched to the other type of wine. Blood was collected twice each month to measure hormone levels.
Researchers were trying to determine whether red wine mimics the effects of aromatase inhibitors, which play a key role in managing oestrogen levels and are currently used to treat breast cancer.
Investigators said the change in hormone patterns suggested that red wine may stem the growth of cancer cells, as has been shown in test tube studies.
They stressed that the results do not mean that white wine increases the risk of breast cancer, but that white grapes may lack the same protective elements found in the grapes used in red wines.
At the same time they said findings were encouraging, and that changing to red wine might ‘shift the risk’ of getting breast cancer.
‘If you were to have a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider a glass of red,’ said Chrisandra Shufelt, assistant director of the Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and one of the study’s co-authors. ‘Switching may shift your risk.’
Glenn D Braunstein, vice president for clinical innovation at Cedars-Sinai said, ‘There are chemicals in red grape skin and red grape seeds that are not found in white grapes that may decrease breast cancer risk,’ but he also advised that large-scale studies are still needed.
Even moderate amounts of alcohol intake may generally increase the risk of breast cancer in women, he said, and until larger studies are done, he would not recommend that a non-drinker begin to drink red wine.
Written by Adam Lechmere