By Michelle Rizzo
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment may want to sip some red wine before treatment.
A study in women with breast cancer found that drinking red wine can help limit the toxic effects of radiation therapy.
"The possibility that particular dietary practices or interventions can reduce radiation-induced toxicity is very intriguing," Dr. Gabriella Macchia, of Catholic University, Campobasso, Italy, noted in an email to Reuters Health.
It's already known that some wine components may protect against the harmful effects of radiation. These components include polyphenols in particular, and the tannins.
In the current study, Macchia and colleagues evaluated the potential protective effects of varying levels of self-reported red wine consumption in 348 women treated with radiation therapy after breast cancer surgery.
The findings were "interesting," Macchia said.
The incidence of radiation-induced skin toxicity greater was 38.4 percent in non-drinkers, 31.8 percent in women drinking only half a glass of wine daily, 13.6 percent in those drinking one glass daily, and 35 percent in those drinking two glasses daily.
Women who drank only one glass daily had a much lower risk of suffering skin effects from radiation therapy. Specifically, their risk of significant skin toxicity was about 75 percent less than that in non-drinkers, the researchers found.
"If wine can prevent (radiation)-induced toxicity without affecting antitumor efficacy, as we observed, it also has the potential to enhance the therapeutic benefit in cancer patients without increasing their risk of serious adverse effects," Macchia said.
"The possible protective effect of wine, which we assessed only in women with breast cancer, should also be evaluated in male and female patients with other types of tumors (e.g., prostate carcinoma) who are undergoing radiotherapy," she concluded.
SOURCE: International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology and Physics, 2009.