Women who consume alcohol show an increase in their risk of developing breast cancer. This relation is stronger for women who drink in binges, are also taking post-menopausal hormonal therapy, and/or have low intakes of dietary folate.
Most studies have shown that heavier drinkers are at the greatest risk of breast cancer.
The authors use prospectively collected data from the 105,986 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study followed up from 1980 until 2008 with an early adult alcohol assessment and 8 follow ups.
The authors describe well the dilemma that women face regarding alcohol intake, which may increase slightly the risk of breast cancer but markedly decrease the risk of other more common diseases, especially cardiovascular conditions.
For example, the authors state that regarding breast cancer, “We did find an increased risk at low levels of use, but the risk was quite small.”
The International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research commented on the study “The results are plausible from the pathophysiological point of view: alcohol intake increases estrogen levels and this means that women have a slightly lower risk for osteoporosis and a slightly higher risk for breast cancer. When we tell the public that current data suggest small to moderate amounts of alcohol protect against cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus, and vascular dementia, we should also state that breast cancer risk in women is slightly increased.”
The authors of this paper put their findings into perspective when they conclude: “An individual will need to weigh the modest risks of light to moderate alcohol use on breast cancer development against the beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease to make the best personal choice regarding alcohol consumption.”
Source: Boston University Medical Center, USA