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Good News: Alcohol Is Not a Bad Thing for Myeloma Patients!

| 16 Comments
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Recent findings have suggested that consuming at least some alcohol may reduce the risk of myeloma. A new comprehensive analysis (pooled analysis of several studies) of 1,567 patients with myeloma compared to 7,296 controls--individuals without myeloma--was published this month.  The myeloma patients were from the U.S. and Europe. Several different levels of alcohol consumption were considered, ranging from "ever drinks" to "never drinks" to drinks per week and years of drinking. 

The bottom line was that study participants who "ever drank" had a lower risk of myeloma versus those who "never drank." In scientific parlance there was "no dose response relationship," meaning there was no relationship to the amount or the number of years of drinking. This also has been true in prior individual studies.

What is going on here? What are the possible explanations? Well, firstly it has been shown broadly that light to moderate alcohol intake can reduce factors triggering inflammation. Such factors include several cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-10 and TGF-beta), hormone-like growth factors involved with the development of myeloma.  These cytokines can regulate the function of cells present in the microenvironment around myeloma cells. So this can be important.

In addition, as far as specific beverages, there is support for the benefits of red wine, which contains polyphenols. Polyphenols reduce key cellular factors such as NFK-beta and MCP-1.  Resveratrol, a natural grape product, has natural cancer chemopreventive properties. 

If you happen to prefer beer, there is evidence that chemicals called "prenylflavonoids" and hop bitter acids have chemopreventive activities. 


And so there you have it: light to moderate alcohol intake can be a good thing! If that happens to be as red wine, that could be even better--especially wines with higher polyphenol levels such as Malbec varieties derived from grapes grown at higher altitudes with more weeks of sun and maturation.

But beer could also be good. And I suspect that an occasional single malt scotch could also be excellent. So enjoy in moderation over the Labor Day weekend!

Dr. Durie sincerely appreciates and reads all comments left here. However, he cannot answer specific medical questions and encourages readers to contact the trained IMF Hotline staff instead. Questions are answered with input from Dr. Durie and/or other scientific advisors and IMWG members as appropriate. To contact the IMF Hotline, call  800-452-CURE, toll-free in the US and Canada, or send an email to hotline@myeloma.org. Hotline hours are 9 am to 4 pm PST. Friday summer hours are 9 am to 3 pm PDT. Thank  you.

16 Comments

I am going through induction therapy. Always loved my red wine before diagnosis, but didn't drink a drop the first 3 cycles. Now I have the equivalent of a few sips or 2-3 tablespoons. My dr said an occasional glass was ok but I can't imagine drinking a full glass. But the little bit I have occasionally let's me savor the taste without adding to liver burden.

I also like many of you love a glass of red wine now and then....so I called the drug company that makes Revlimid and asked them directly....they told me that they do not recommend it because of the effect on the liver....the alcohol and the Revlimid not a good combo....so unfortunately I do not partake.....my Doc said its fine once in a while....so I guesss the decision is a personal one..... :)

As a MM patient caregiver, I know I enjoy a nice glass of wine now and then!

Dr. Durie,

Shouldn't you discuss the detrimental side effects of consuming alcohol? Even at a limited consumption rate,alcohol still negatively effects different organs of the body. Consuming the grape itself, and grape juice can provide some of the same benefits with out the alcohol.

Isn't the consumption of alcohol prohibited with most myeloma medications? Also, couldn't the consumption of alcohol increase the potential for dehydration and effect liver and kidney function? I get hot flashes and night sweats a lot and it is all I can do to drink enough water to avoid dehydration and keep my organs happy. Wouldn't the consumption of alcohol require the consumption of even more water to combat it's dehydrating effects?

So does this mean I can skip my 10 mg daily Rev maintenance, and just have a couple of glasses of red wine instead? OK, that's a joke, but like Ed above, I really would like to know if it's OK for someone in complete remission on Rev maintenance to have a couple beers or glasses of wine now and then. I didn't drink at all during induction therapy and my bone marrow transplant, but now that I'm just on lower dose maintenance, is it OK to relax the restriction on alcohol a bit?

Speaking as MM patient on Revlimid and warfarin diagnosed in 2007, and until 2 months ago was a lifelong drinker. I am age 67. Thinking even a small amount of alcohol is OK is nonsense. The body must process this poison in addition to fighting the cancer. Alcohol affects all the body tissues, and the alcohol molecule is so small it is absorbed directly through the oral tissues on its way to the stomach and saturates the entire body until it is eliminated. It is an extra burden in no matter what amount. I live in wine country on the central coast of CA and the pervasive influence of the message from Big Alcohol is no different than the lies we were fed from Big Tobacco in the past. This pro alcohol message on this website will do NOTHING to improve the health and well-being of MM patents and their families, and to think otherwise is delusional and a justification used by alcoholics to defend their self-abuse. Telling us it is harmless or helpful in moderate amounts is indefensible, not matter what studies are cited. To anyone who cares to further inform themselves on this matter I recommend the book AN UNCOMMON DRUNK by Jeff Herten, MD. This message is not popular in our alcohol saturated culture, but someone must speak up for common sense here!

i was released from morres cancer center on june 4th 2009, indulge in wine and beer at a social moderate level. i usually have beer following a run. i prefer IPA, (imperial pale ale), for it's 7.2% alcohol. I also prefer white wine.
never in my dreams did i ever think i would run again..have moved threshold from 0 to 7 miles...beer following hydration, (gookin aid or water),is excellent relief from a nice trail run. i am 75 years old, and thanks to my oncologist and a small miracle i have enjoyed a quality of life beyond my expectations.

It is good news that myeloma patients can consider having the occasional glass of wine or beer. But,
what about the medications that many mm patients take, which indicate "do not take with alcohol" such as
Lyrica for (chemo induced) nerve pain?

An interesting extension to the "French Paradox." Oddly, I had stopped drinking all alcohol when I was about 30 because I was having trouble with vertigo. Alcohol made it worse, not surprisingly... Odd that I should be diagnosed with myeloma at 38.

Thanks for the interesting finding. Have a wonderful holiday weekend.

-Tom Chelius

Dear Dr. Durie,
For my birthday this summer, I tried a pet nat, an organic pinot noir based semi-champagne (Austrian Schilcher Frizzante). Is there any such thing as a wine or champagne to absolutely avoid?

Dr. Durie,

First off I just want to say that Susan and I truly enjoyed the seminar in Philadelphia this past weekend and seeing you and Susie and all of the talented medical guest speakers.

While I basically drink red Cab, Zin, Borolo and other Italian and French red wines I will be adding a nice selection of Malbec to my library after hearing you speak about it and now reading it here.

If we are going to go with a single malt I probably don't have to provide any advice but my recommendations are from light to full bodied
1. Auchentoshan - Lowlands
2. Glenmorangie - Highlands
3. Highland Park - Highlands/Orkneys Islands
4. Springbank - Campbeltown
5. Lagavulin - Islay

My favorites from the 4 different classics distillery regions, the Lowlands, the Highlands, Campbeltown and Islay. And of course Whiskey derives from the Gaelic uisgebebeatha or usiquebaugh, meaning "water of life" so there has to be some benefit from an occasional sniffer.

I am very excited by the Black Swan project and hope many strides are made in the next year or two.

All the best to you and Susie and all the great folks at the IMF, and look forward to seeing you again in the near future.

Sincerely, John and Susan Bianco


Is drinking alcohol okay even when undergoing treatment. And is it only beer and wine or is a vodka/gin and tonic okay?

When referencing alcohol the words "moderate" and "light" are frequently used.
But what do the mean?

This information seems to be preventative for those people who do not have MM. As a myeloma survivor (on 5mg Rev every other day) I find wine, even a bit, saps some energy and seems to increase, temporarily, PN. However, I still sip occasionally, often diluted with water. (As Oscar Wilde said: I can resist everything but temptation.) Light beer such as Michelob Ultra, one, or at most two, have no ill effects. Would love to get feedback from other myeloma survivors.

I agree with you. For me there is no evidence, that alcohol itself is helpful for myeloma patients. The substances in i.e. red wine seems to be heplful. For an alternativ have a look at this information:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/07/aronia-north-american-super-berry-with-cancer-fighting-benefits/

I am consuming this berry (juce) for 4 years and stopped drinking alcohol and eating meat after a ayurvedc treatment in India. My immune system has improved. Still no Myeloma treatment up to now.

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