Some scientists have looked at links between alcohol intake and the risk of prostate cancer. However, more research is necessary to determine a correlation.

The prostate is part of the male reproductive system and sits just below the bladder. It surrounds the urethra, a tube that carries urine out of the body, and helps make semen.

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men in the United States.

Some researchers investigated a possible association between prostate cancer and alcohol, but they have not found enough evidence to confirm a link. However, if a link exists, the type and amount of alcohol appear to play the biggest roles, as the risk of prostate cancer seems to increase when people consume liquor or high amounts of alcohol.

In this article, we cover prostate cancer’s symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, and consider its possible links with alcohol consumption.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, there is currently no direct association between drinking alcohol and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Similarly, the American Cancer Society (ACS) does not list alcohol as a known risk factor for prostate cancer.

A 2016 review concluded that men who consume high amounts of alcohol over their lifetimes might have a higher risk of developing the disease than those who abstain, and the risk increases in line with alcohol intake. However, the review questions the reliability of including data from men reporting on their own consumption levels.

The results of a 2018 study indicate there is an association between a person’s alcohol consumption earlier in life and their risk of developing prostate cancer later in life. However, this study only examined men who required a prostate biopsy and found no association between current alcohol consumption and prostate cancer risk.

One 2019 study looked at data for 5,182 males undergoing a follow-up after prostate cancer treatment. The findings suggest that consuming alcohol after diagnosis did not worsen their outlook. There may also be an association between consuming red wine in moderation and a lower risk of prostate cancer progressing. However, the authors caution against consuming alcohol to prevent prostate cancer, as their results are not conclusive.

Research from 2020 found that consuming liquor or a high amount of red wine may increase the risk of prostate cancer. The authors did not find an association between prostate cancer and total alcohol consumption. However, they conclude that consuming less alcohol is generally better for a person’s overall health.

In all of these studies, the researchers highlight the need for further investigation into the effects of alcohol on prostate cancer risk. These studies only show a minor association between alcohol and prostate cancer and do not show that alcohol causes prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is unlikely to cause symptoms until a later stage. Screening is a valuable tool that doctors use to spot initial signs of disease in people with risk factors.

Symptoms a person may occasionally experience include:

  • needing to urinate more often than usual, especially at night
  • difficulty urinating
  • pain or a burning feeling when passing urine
  • blood in their urine or semen
  • difficulty achieving an erection
  • pain when ejaculating
  • pain or stiffness in their rectum, lower back, hips, or pelvis

High consumption of alcohol can also make a person urinate more than usual and have difficulty achieving an erection. People might mistake both of these symptoms for early symptoms of prostate cancer.

People with cancer who take steps to maintain their health and strength tend to endure cancer treatments better.

Tips include:

  • eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables and limits red and processed meats
  • exercising regularly
  • taking time to relax and unwind
  • avoiding alcohol or drinking in moderation

Alcohol can sometimes interact with medications and stop them from working or cause side effects. In addition, the ACS recommends people avoid alcohol when receiving radiation therapy to their head or neck.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend drinking no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and two for men. However, experts advise that drinking less, or not drinking at all, is generally better for health.

It is best to speak with a doctor about consuming alcohol before undergoing radiation therapy or other cancer treatments.

Prostate cancer can affect any male, but several factors appear to increase the risk.

Possible risk factors include:

  • older age, as most cases occur after 50 years of age
  • being a Black American male
  • a family history of prostate, breast, ovarian, or pancreatic cancer
  • persistently high testosterone levels
  • low activity levels
  • having obesity
  • exposure to Agent Orange
  • high blood pressure
  • a history of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis
  • a diet high in saturated fats and red meat may increase the risk

Racial inequity and prostate cancer

The risk for Black Americans developing prostate cancer is about twice as high as for other groups.

In addition, Black American males are more likely to develop prostate cancer at a younger age, when it is more aggressive, making them twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as males from other groups.

They are also more likely to receive a diagnosis at a later stage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It is unclear why this happens, but studies show social inequities may play a role.

Trans women

Anyone with a prostate gland can develop prostate cancer, including trans women and nonbinary people. However, it may be harder to diagnose for the following reasons:

  • feminizing hormones can reduce prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, making them unreliable when testing for prostate cancer
  • urinary problems may not appear if hormone treatments have reduced the prostate’s size
  • a doctor may not discuss prostate cancer if the person does not inform the doctor of their gender
  • reconstructive surgery could lead to similar symptoms, such as pain and urinary problems

It is essential for trans women and nonbinary people to discuss their risks with a healthcare professional they trust to help them plan for screening, if appropriate.

Here are some answers to questions people often ask about prostate cancer and alcohol.

Does drinking affect your risk of prostate cancer?

There is not enough evidence to confirm that drinking affects the risk of prostate cancer, although it can affect overall health.

Does alcohol affect your PSA levels?

High PSA levels can be a sign of prostate cancer. One study suggests that people who consume or have consumed alcohol have lower PSA levels, but more research is necessary to confirm these findings.

Can you drink alcohol if you have prostate cancer?

Moderate alcohol consumption is likely safe for people with a prostate cancer diagnosis. However, alcohol may aggravate the side effects of some treatment options. It is best to speak with a doctor before consuming alcohol with a prostate cancer diagnosis.

More research is necessary to establish whether alcohol consumption impacts prostate cancer risk. Meanwhile, experts recommend limiting alcohol consumption to benefit a person’s overall health.

For people with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, drinking in moderation appears to be safe generally. However, alcohol may interact with medication or other treatments, so people should check with a doctor before drinking alcohol to avoid harmful interactions.

Some lifestyle changes can improve a person’s experience during treatment for prostate cancer. These changes may include avoiding alcohol, exercising more, and eating a varied diet.