Epidemiological studies have shown an association between consumption of alcoholic beverages, particularly beer, and carcinoma of the large bowel, especially the rectum. We studied the effects of chronic dietary beer and ethanol consumption on experimental colonic carcinogenesis, fecal bile acid and neutral sterol levels, fecal bacterial flora, and colonic epithelial DNA synthesis. Ten-week-old male Fischer 344 rats were pair fed throughout the study with Lieber-DeCarli-type liquid diets providing comparable total carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and calories. The diets provided 23 or 12% of calories as alcohol in beer (Hi-Beer and Lo-Beer groups), 18 or 9% of calories as reagent ethanol (Hi-EtOH and Lo-EtOH groups), or no alcohol (control group). After 3 weeks of dietary acclimatization, 10 weekly s.c. injections of the bowel carcinogen azoxymethane, 7 mg/kg, were given (weeks 1–10). At necropsy in week 26, the high alcohol groups (Hi-Beer and Hi-EtOH) showed a significantly reduced incidence of tumors in the right colon (42 and 46% versus 81% in control, P < 0.01 and P = 0.02) but no effect on left colonic tumorigenesis. By contrast, the low alcohol groups (Lo-Beer and Lo-EtOH) showed a trend toward increased incidence and proportion of tumors in the left colon (incidence of 42 and 35% versus 15% in control, P = 0.06 for Lo-Beer; 28 and 30% of tumors in left colon versus 11%, P = 0.08 and P = 0.07) but no effect on right colonic tumorigenesis. Numbers of right colonic tumors were inversely correlated with alcohol consumption of all rats (r = -0.350, P < 0.001), but left colonic tumors were not correlated. Fecal bile acid and neutral sterol levels, fecal bacterial counts, and colonic epithelial DNA synthesis did not correlate with the effects of alcohol consumption on colonic tumorigenesis. Our findings suggest that: (a) modulation of experimental colonic tumorigenesis by chronic dietary beer and ethanol consumption was due to alcohol rather than other beverage constituents; (b) tumorigenesis in the right and left colon was affected differentially by the levels of alcohol consumption, reflecting complex interactions among the potential mechanisms for alcohol effects in the model used.


This investigation was supported in part by USPHS Grant R01-CA29714, awarded by the National Cancer Institute, Department of Health and Human Services, and in part by the Clayton Fund, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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