Alcohol Increases Chances of Breast Cancer

Researchers have recently found a link between alcohol consumption and the risk of developing breast cancer.

A study that tracked 105,000 nurses over a period of 30 years found that as few as 3 to 6 alcohol drinks per week can increase the risk of breast cancer by 15 percent.

Of even greater concern is the finding that women who drink two or more glasses per day of beer, wine or any other type of liquor increases their risk of developing breast cancer by more than 50 percent.

This is not the first study to find that women who drink alcohol on a regular basis are at greater risk of developing breast cancer, but it is the first that indicates there is an increased risk for even light drinkers.  For years the media has quoted scientists and researchers who say there are health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption, including the prevention of heart disease.  Now they are saying that women who have other risks for developing breast cancer, such as a family history of the disease, should rethink their level of alcohol consumption.

Medical experts do not fully understand the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer.  One theory is that alcohol can increase estrogen levels in the body which in turn may fuel tumor development.  About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer of their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society, at least 230,000 new breast cancer cases are diagnosed each year and about 40,000 women die from the disease annually.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that increased breast cancer risk is based on the amount of alcohol that a woman has consumed on average throughout her lifetime.  This means that having a few more drinks than usual while on vacation or during the holidays will not have a significant impact on a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer.  According to Dr. Wendy Chen of Harvard Medical School, one of the study’s authors, “…it’s not what women did this week or last month – we were looking at a longer period of time.”

Speaking to Bloomberg Business Week, Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, said the study should motivate some women to cut back on their drinking. The amount of alcohol a woman consumes is under her control, making it one of the few risks related to breast cancer that she can reduce. “If a woman does drink every day and they are at risk for breast cancer or if they want to reduce their risk for breast cancer, they should consider reducing their alcohol consumption.”

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