Red Wine Cancer Prevention

Another health benefit of red wines is its connection with cancer prevention. It seems the anti-cancer properties of resveratrol work on several different levels: minimizing the DNA mutations that lead to cancer, inducing cell death in cancer cells, and blocking the formation of new blood vessels that “feed” tumors. Large studies are still required to prove the cancer prevention properties of resveratrol, but early results show promise.

Tumor Suppression

Studies show that resveratrol has the ability to inhibit the process that leads to the growth and spreading (metastasis) of cancer. Resveratrol helps to neutralize the oxidation of free radicals which keeps them from penetrating the cell membrane and destroying the protein and DNA inside healthy cells. Resveratrol also shows properties of tumor suppression by preventing the production of new blood vessels, which can help limit the growth of tumors by cutting off their supply of nutrients.

Laboratory studies have shown that resveratrol can cause certain cancer cells to self-destruct, or undergo apoptosis — an event where cells disintegrate and become particles that are then consumed by other cells. So far, this triggering of apoptosis by resveratrol has been shown to occur in breast cancer cells, skin cancer (melanoma) cells, and leukemia cells.

Other research studies have shown that resveratrol can suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells. In addition, levels of the prostate specific antigen (PSA), a marker used to monitor prostate cancer activity in patients, are also suppressed in these experiments.

Wine and Colon Cancer

According to researchers from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, a glass of wine per week may help prevent colon cancer. The study led by Catherine R. Messina, Ph.D. found that colorectal polyps occurred in 18 percent of beer or grain-based liquor drinkers, 12 percent of non-drinkers and only 1 percent of wine drinkers.

Too Much of a Good Thing

While evidence shows that small daily amounts of resveratrol have positive health benefits, some concern exists that large amounts may have adverse effects. Limiting the amount of the antioxidants to those in red wine, peanuts, blueberries and cranberries may offer the most health benefit. Positive evidence is based on moderate drinking of one to two glasses of red wine per day. More research is moving in the direction of using resveratrol as a chemopreventive (cancer preventing) agent.

Red Wine and Cancer Prevention

Research has indicated a positive effect in moderate wine consumption on the following cancer cells. Click on a cancer to learn more about the disease.


Kris-Etherton, P., Hecker, K. D., Bonanome, A., Coval, S. M., Binkoski, A. E., Hilpert, K. F., Griel, A. E., Etherton, T. D. (2002, December 30). Bioactive compounds in foods: Their role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. The American Journal of Medicine, 113(Suppl 9B), 71S-88S.

ScienceDaily. (2000, October 16.) Grapes or grain? Wine drinking may reduce colon cancer risk; beer, hard liquor provide no benefit. Retrieved September 20, 2003, from