19 March 2009

Drinking moderate amounts of any kind of alcohol whether it’s wine, beer, or liquor is associated with the incresing of breast cancer risk. That’s the conclusion of a new study that dashes any hope that red wine is less likely than other alcohol-containing drinks to increase breast cancer risk, or that it might even protect against the disease.

There’s good evidence showing that women who consume alcohol have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than teetotalers, and the risk is higher with heavier drinking. But research in animals and some human studies had suggested that red wine might not carry the same risks as other forms of alcohol or could even be protective, because red wine contains more potentially beneficial plant chemicals, such as resveratrol, than white wine does.

To find out if this was true, the researchers looked at 6,327 women with breast cancer and 7,558 women who had never been diagnosed with the disease. Risk rose with the amount of alcohol consumed, no matter whether it was wine, beer or liquor. The heaviest drinkers—women who reported having 14 or more drinks a week—were 24 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than nondrinkers.

Lighter drinkers who consumed about a drink or two a day (7 to 13.9 drinks per week) were 11 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women who didn’t drink at all, but there was no greater breast cancer risk when alcohol intake was less than four drinks per week. And neither white wine nor red wine drinkers had a lower risk of breast cancer than nondrinkers, Newcomb and her colleagues found.

Moderate drinking increases breast cancer risk, and it seems that the more you drink the higher the risk. There are a handful of things women can do to modify breast cancer risk, Newcomb noted, including maintaining a healthy weight and not using hormone replacement therapy. And alcohol consumption looks like another breast cancer risk factor that’s under women’s control.

Recent alcohol consumption was very relevant in terms of determining breast cancer risk, so reducing alcohol consumption or eliminating it probably is going to impact upon a woman’s future risk of the disease. This is something that you can do today to reduce your future risk.


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