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Alcohol-Stimulated Breast Cancer Mechanism

Posted Oct 29 2009 12:00am
Numerous scientific studies have shown that alcohol consumption, especially excessive alcohol consumption, is one of the biggest factors for increased breast cancer risk.  What hasn't been known in any great detail is the mechanism by which alcohol consumption increases breast cancer risk.

New research published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research begins to provide some answers.  In their study, the researchers tested the idea that alcohol might stimulate the 'epithelial-mesenchyme transition' (EMT), a developmental program that has been shown to be involved in cancer progression and metastasis.  For the study, breast cancer cells (and other cancer cells) were treated with alcohol and changes in the EMT were recorded.  The results of their study showed that alcohol increased markers of EMT activity, increased the activity of the 'Snail' transcription factor, stimulated breast cancer cell migration, and increased activity of the epidermal growth factor receptor.  These results suggest that alcohol might be involved in both the progression of existing breast cancer tumors as well as the initiation of new breast cancer.

While the increase in breast cancer risk associated with alcohol consumption is well known, these new data start to explain why alcohol consumption increases breast cancer risk.  By discovering the mechanism by which alcohol increases breast cancer risk, researchers open avenues for new breast cancer treatment possibilities.  Of course, the best and easiest approach to reduce alcohol-associated breast cancer risk is to reduce one's alcohol consumption.  According to the American Cancer Society, women who drink 2 - 5 alcoholic drinks per day have 1.5 times the increase in breast cancer risk compared to women who consume no alcohol.  Therefore, the American Cancer Society recommends that women limit their alcohol consumption to no more than 1 drink per day.

Limiting alcohol consumption is one of the most important things we can do to reduce breast cancer risk.  To learn about other lifestyle modifications that can reduce your breast cancer risk, read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Agains Breast Cancer at
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