Even a little drinking may raise breast cancer risk: study

March 29, 2012 By Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay Reporter
Even a little drinking may raise breast cancer risk: study
Heavy consumption increases risk up to 50 percent, new review finds.

(HealthDay) -- Just one alcoholic drink a day can boost a woman's risk of breast cancer by about 5 percent, according to a new review of existing research.

Heavier drinking -- three or more drinks a day -- can increase risk up to 50 percent, according to researchers from Germany, France and Italy.

" consumption is causally related with breast cancer," the study authors concluded after reviewing 113 prior studies. They attributed 2 percent of breast cancer cases in Europe and North America to light drinking alone, and about 50,000 cases worldwide to heavy drinking.

The research seems to confirm the expert advice for women to minimize drinking, said study leader Dr. Helmut Seitz, professor of medicine, gastroenterology and research at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

The findings suggest that healthy women at average risk of breast cancer should not consume more than one alcoholic drink a day, the authors said.

"Women at an elevated risk for breast cancer should avoid alcohol or consume alcohol only occasionally," the researchers wrote. Those at increased risk include those with a family history of breast cancer.

The link between alcohol and breast cancer was first suggested in the early 1980s, the authors said. To update the research, they searched for studies published before November 2011. They found more than 3,400 studies in all and narrowed their focus to 113 that examined the effects of light drinking on .

The review will be published March 29 in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.

In the United States, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, experts estimate. The increased risk associated with drinking is added to that starting risk.

Alcohol is thought to increase , in turn, perhaps, increasing the risk of breast cancer. Several studies have found alcohol more strongly linked to cancers known as positive, which require estrogen to grow.

Seitz said the team's research controlled for various other factors that might affect risk, such as obesity.

Two American experts put the new report into perspective.

The association between moderate alcohol use and a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer has been reported before, said Dr. Joanne Mortimer, director of Women's Cancer Programs at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif.

"This is an update of the evidence linking alcohol to breast cancer," said Susan Gapstur, vice president of the epidemiology research program at the American Cancer Society.

By including both newer studies and older ones, Gapstur said, "we are basically getting to the point where we can more precisely estimate the risk of light ."

As the link between alcohol and breast cancer strengthens, women may wonder how to strike a balance between breast health and heart health, since moderate alcohol has been found to be heart-healthy.

Follow the American Cancer Society guidelines, Gapstur said.

"Our guidelines say, for overall health, if you don't drink, don't start," she said. "If you do, it's best to limit your consumption to one drink a day if you are a woman."

If you are at high risk of breast cancer, limiting consumption to even less may be wise, she said.

Mortimer, however, said many women are at of because of genetic factors.

"Lifestyle changes won't impact much," she said.

Seitz has another opinion. "The heart benefits hold true only for a subgroup of individuals," he said. "Those who have more than one risk factor for coronary heart disease and especially the elderly may benefit from small amounts of alcohol. Younger people do not."

Explore further: Low levels of alcohol consumption associated with small increased risk of breast cancer

More information: To learn more about alcohol and cancers, visit American Cancer Society.

Related Stories

Low levels of alcohol consumption associated with small increased risk of breast cancer

November 1, 2011
Consumption of 3 to 6 alcoholic drinks per week is associated with a small increase in the risk of breast cancer, and consumption in both earlier and later adult life is also associated with an increased risk, according to ...

Association of quantity of alcohol and frequency of consumption with cancer mortality

October 20, 2011
A paper from the National Institutes of Health in the United States has evaluated the separate and combined effects of the frequency of alcohol consumption and the average quantity of alcohol drunk per occasion and how that ...

Women with breast cancer continue to smoke, drink

September 29, 2011
New research shows that Australian women are prepared to make lifestyle changes, such as altering  their diet, following diagnosis with breast cancer, however they are unwilling to give up alcohol and cigarettes - increasing ...

Recommended for you

Boosting cancer therapy with cross-dressed immune cells

January 22, 2018
Researchers at EPFL have created artificial molecules that can help the immune system to recognize and attack cancer tumors. The study is published in Nature Methods.

Cancer patients who tell their life story find more peace, less depression

January 22, 2018
Fifteen years ago, University of Wisconsin–Madison researcher Meg Wise began interviewing cancer patients nearing the end of life about how they were living with their diagnosis. She was surprised to find that many asked ...

Workouts may boost life span after breast cancer

January 22, 2018
(HealthDay)—Longer survival after breast cancer may be as simple as staying fit, new research shows.

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.