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Wine May Be Protective Against Esophageal Cancer
Date:3/2/2009

One glass a day may lower risk for Barrett's, a precursor to disease, study finds

MONDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Drinking a glass of wine a day may lower the risk of Barrett's esophagus, a condition that precedes esophageal cancer.

Barrett's esophagus, which affects about 5 percent of the population, occurs when heartburn or acid reflux permanently damages the lining of the esophagus. People with this condition are 30 to 40 times more likely to develop a type of esophageal cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma. In the last 30 years, the incidence of esophageal cancer in the United States has increased 500 percent.

In this Kaiser Permanente study, researchers looked at 953 men and women in Northern California and found that those who drank one or more glasses of red or white wine a day were 56 percent less likely to develop Barrett's esophagus. Beer or liquor did not lower the risk, and the protective effect of wine didn't increased with higher consumption.

"The rate of esophageal adenocarcinoma in this country is skyrocketing, yet very little is known about its precursor, Barrett's esophagus. We are trying to figure out how to prevent changes that may lead to esophageal cancer," principal investigator Dr. Douglas A. Corley, said in a Kaiser Permanente news release.

The study was published in the March issue of Gastroenterology. Two other studies in the same issue of the journal reported similar findings. An Australian study found that people who drink wine were less likely to develop adenocarcinoma, and Irish researchers reported that drinking wine reduces the risk of esophagitis, an irritation of the esophagus that follows chronic heartburn and often precedes Barrett's esophagus and cancer.

It's not clear why wine may lower the risk of Barrett's esophagus. Researchers suggest it may be because antioxidants in wine neutralize the damage done by gastroesophageal reflux disease. Or
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