NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Drinking alcohol at moderate levels -- two or more drinks per day -- appears to be a risk factor for abdominal aortic aneurysm in men, researchers found.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm, or AAA, occurs when the wall of the aorta -- the body's largest artery that carries blood from the heart -- is stretched or weakened as it passes through the abdomen. Blood pumping through the artery can cause the weakened wall to balloon out and possibly rupture, leading to death in many patients.
Dr. Daniel R. Wong of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston and colleagues analyzed data for a cohort of more than 39,000 men covering 1986 to 2002 including 376 newly diagnosed cases of AAA.
After adjusting for other risk factors including smoking and high blood pressure, alcohol consumption was independently associated with AAA diagnosis.
Compared with non-drinkers, those who consumed about two standard alcoholic drinks (30 g) per day had a 21 percent higher risk of AAA, they report in the April issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. This association was even stronger when "updated" alcohol consumption data were assessed.
Compared to wine and beer, liquor appeared to have the strongest positive association with AAA, the researchers note.
"Low alcohol consumption," they point out, "did not appear to be harmful or beneficial regarding aneurysms."
Wong told Reuters Health that "these results must be viewed in the context of the benefits of moderate alcohol intake on cardiovascular risk, and further corroborating evidence is needed."
"Nevertheless," he added, "these findings do raise a red flag and caution against higher levels of alcohol intake in men who may have or be at risk for aortic aneurysms."
SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, April 2007.