Alcohol consumption is associated with a decrease risk of renal cell carcinoma (RCC), and this apparent protective effect is unrelated to high fluid intake, data suggest.

Naomi Allen, PhD, of the University of Oxford in England, and her colleagues obtained information on beverage consumption from a questionnaire sent out three years after recruitment into the Million Women Study.  In this study, 1.3 million women aged 50-64 years attending breast cancer screening clinics in the United Kingdom completed a questionnaire about lifestyle and other personal factors.

After an average of 5.2 years of follow-up, 588 cases of RCC were identified among 779,369 women. RCC risk was reduced by 24% for women who drank more than two drinks per day compared to women who drank less than one drink per day, investigators reported in the British Journal of Cancer (2011;104:1487-1492).

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It has been theorized that a high fluid intake, rather than alcohol intake, may reduce the risk of RCC by increasing urine volume and thereby diluting the amount of carcinogens within the kidney. However, the researchers found that total fluid intake was not associated with the risk of RCC, refuting this theory.

Moderate alcohol consumption may protect against the risk of RCC through its effect on the immune system or on lipid peroxidation. The researchers observed that alcohol’s reported beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity may be important, given than obesity and diabetes are risks for RCC.