A Single Alcoholic Beverage Daily May Increase Breast Cancer Risk

A Single Alcoholic Beverage Daily May Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Human existence is characterized by behaviour patterns—what people do to meet their biological, psychological, and social needs. These patterns may include certain ways of preparing and consuming food, physical inactivity, and the development of dependence on tobacco products, alcohol, and drugs. Many of these patterns have an impact on cancer, as well as on other diseases. Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, physical exercise, appropriate body weight, and avoidance of risk-associated behaviours can lead to a long active life.


The common cancers of sex-specific organs – especially the uterus, breast, ovary and prostate – are influenced by levels of sex hormones. There is a positive link, for example, between breast cancer and elevated levels of the hormone estradiol.Several studies indicate that vegetables and fruits contain substances that provide protection against some cancers. Similarly, studies indicate that excessive amounts of animal products in the diet, such as red meat, increase the risk of colorectal and perhaps breast cancer and other forms of the disease.Among the diet related factors overweight/obesity convincingly increases the risk of several common cancers such as colorectal and breast cancer.

Further, some drugs used to treat cancer are carcinogenic, while estrogens – used to counteract menopausal symptoms – increase the risk of endometrial and breast cancer.Considerable evidence suggests a connection between heavy alcohol consumption and increased risk for cancer, with an estimated 2 to 4 percent of all cancer cases thought to be caused either directly or indirectly by alcohol.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This alters a person's perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing.In very small amounts, alcohol can help a person feel more relaxed or less anxious. More alcohol causes greater changes in the brain, resulting in intoxication.

At least three quarters of people who have a mouth and throat cancer consume alcohol frequently. People who drink alcohol frequently are 6 times more likely to develop one of these cancers. People who both drink alcohol and smoke often have a much higher risk than people who use only tobacco alone.Even significant alcohol use (more than 1-2 drinks a day) has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
A strong link exists between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. The type of alcohol consumed — wine, beer or mixed drinks — seems to make no difference. To help protect against breast cancer, limit alcohol to less than one drink a day or avoid alcohol completely.

On balance, there was a weak association between the amount of alcohol consumed and the relative risk.A research estimates that a woman drinking an average of two units of alcohol per day has a lifetime risk of developing breast cancer 8% higher than a woman who drinks an average of one unit of alcohol per day. The risk of breast cancer further increases with each additional drink consumed per day.One study suggests that women who frequently drink red wine may have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Excessive alcohol use (IARC, 1988), and certain drugs also increase the risk of some cancers. Vaginal cancer among young women was found to be due to diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic hormone that had been given to their mothers to prevent miscarriage during pregnancy .The risk of cancer can also be multiplied by risk factors acting simultaneously. For example, the effect of alcohol on oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal and oesophageal cancer risk is multiplied by the combined use of tobacco.

Moreover,smoking and alcohol use are often associated with each other. Furthermore, smoking and drinking are often linked with depression. All three of these disorders are common for persons diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Continued depression, smoking, and alcohol use are likely to negatively affect health and survival.

Most recently,a new study suggests that drinking a single alcoholic beverage daily may increase a woman's risk of developing invasive breast cancer by 9 percent.

Drinking just over two drinks daily may increase their breast cancer risk by 32 percent, Dr. Shumin M. Zhang of Harvard Medical School in Boston and colleagues found.

"Moderate alcohol consumption increases your risk of breast cancer," Zhang told Reuters Health. "If you drink alcohol, you should think about the risks and benefits, there is a risk definitely."

Beer, liquor, and white wine all conferred increased risk, but not red wine. Zhang said it's possible chemicals in red wine such as resveratrol and other polyphenols could counteract the harmful effects of alcohol. But, she added, the findings don't prove red wine is safe.

A number of studies have linked moderate alcohol consumption to an increased risk of breast cancer, Zhang and colleagues point out in a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology. They set out to determine if the type of tumor might influence this relationship. Most breast cancer tumors contain receptors for both estrogen and progesterone, while some have receptors for just one of the hormones or for neither.

The researchers followed 39,876 women participating in the Women's Health Study. During the 10-year follow up period, 1,190 developed invasive breast cancer and 294 were diagnosed with early-stage disease.

Women who consumed 10 grams of alcohol a day -- between three-quarters of a drink and one drink -- were at 7 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer, and at 9 percent greater risk of developing more advanced disease. Among those who drank 30 grams of alcohol daily, overall risk of breast cancer rose 32 percent, and 43 percent for invasive disease.

The increased risk was most substantial for women who had tumors carrying both estrogen and progesterone receptors, who represented about two-thirds of all breast cancer cases.

Alcohol is thought to affect breast cancer risk by influencing estrogen levels, and the finding that the link was strongest among women with estrogen- and progesterone-receptor positive tumors backs up this hypothesis, Zhang notes.

Women who were taking postmenopausal hormones also showed a greater risk; those who drank 10 grams of alcohol daily and were on hormone therapy were 84 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who didn't drink and weren't taking hormones.

Folate intake counteracts breast cancer risk associated with alcohol consumption"and "women who drink alcohol and have a high folate intake are not at increased risk of cancer".Those who have a high (200 micrograms or more per day) level of folate (folic acid or Vitamin B9) in their diet are not at increased risk of breast cancer compared to those who abstain from alcohol.

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