Study – Modest Alcohol Consumption Linked To Breast Cancer Increased Risk
It is well-known that large amounts of alcohol increase the breast cancer risk in women, but what about a modest quantity of alcohol? A modest quantity of alcohol in women is considered to be less than 1 drink per day, that means less than 7 drinks per week. In U.S. a drink means 350 ml of beer, 150 ml of wine and 40-44 ml of spirits. It is rather easil to calculate the amount of pure alcohol in each kind of alcoholic beverage. For example a beer that has 500 ml with a 5 g of pure alcohol, in 100 ml, has a total of 25 g of pure alcohol.
An observational study led by Dr. Chen and colleagues from Brigham, Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School examined the “cumulative average consumption” of alcohol, in over 100.000 women, followed over 28 years. The researchers found that there was a 15% increase risk of breast cancer after drinking 5 – 9,9 g of pure alcohol per day ( 3-6 drinks per week), a 22% breast cancer risk increase when drinking 10 19,9 g of pure alcohol per day ( 6-12 drinks per week) and a 51% breast cancer increase risk when drinking more than 30 g of pure alcohol per day. They also evaluated if the breast cancer risk is linked to a special kind of alcohol, like wine, beer or liquor, but they did not find any semnificative differences.
In an editorial accompanying his study, Dr. Narod S. suggested that alcohol is related to hormone replacement therapy, which is a well-known carcinogen: “Alcohol…appears similar to hormone therapy in that lifetime risk exposure also is associated with annual risk”. So how can alcohol influence estrogen levels? Studies performed in premenopausal and postmenopausal women found that a moderate intake of alcohol can raise the circulating estrogen levels.
This particular study reveals the risks of a so-called normal consumption of alcoholic beverages and the cumulative average alcohol intake risks over a long period of time.
So what can women do about it? Should they stop drinking any kind of alcohol? Every woman makes her own decision regarding consumption of alcoholic beverages, but looking at the cumulative alcohol intake and the risk of breast cancer, can they cheat?
It recommended to have a drinking strategy , for example during holidays if they have more drinks, the rest of the time they should consider having less drinks or no drinks at all. Everybody knows that a cup of red wine each day protects against cardiovascular diseases, but this aspect must be put in balance with the breast cancer risk. Dr. Chen recommends to limit consumption to a few drinks per week or less.