Alcohol increases risk of breast cancer

Laura Mappas
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Alcohol could increase risk of breast cancer. Image: Getty Images

A 2008 study shows postmenopausal women who consume one or two alcoholic drinks a day increase their risk of developing a tumour.

Breast cancer is the second most common killer of women after lung cancer. A staggering 1.2 million women will be diagnosed with the deadly disease globally this year alone and of those 1.2 million it will take the lives of 500,000.

They are frightening statistics, but there is something you can do to lower your risk of developing a cancerous breast tumour … and it's as simple as passing on that glass of wine with dinner. A large US study has now confirmed there is a link between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of the most common type of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

It only takes one or two drinks
According to Jasmine Lew, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute in Marylands, USA, and the study's lead researcher, this is the biggest of three major studies concluding that drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer for older women.

And what's even more alarming is the fact that it only takes one drink a day to put you in the danger zone. The research found that women who had just one to two small drinks a day were 32 percent more likely to develop a hormone-sensitive tumour. Consume three to four drinks a day and that risk jumps up to a massive 51 percent.

Why it increases your risk
About 70 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have tumours that are positive for both estrogen and progesterone. According to Lew, the results from the study support the theory that alcohol interferes with the body's ability to metabolise estrogen, therefore increasing the risk of developing cancer.

Health recommendations
While the study's findings are frightening to say the least, Lew said it was too early to begin making public health recommendations. But, that said, she noted that postmenopausal women should talk to their doctors to assess their risk factors and perhaps consider changing their lifestyle.

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