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Alcohol Affects Risk of Cancer In Postmenopausal Women

Posted May 09 2008 3:32pm

Research has shown that excessive alcohol drinking could increase the risk of breast cancer.

The study was lead by the University of Chicago. The first author, Jasmine Q. Lew, was a recipient of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute National Institutes of Health Research Scholarship at the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.

To perform this study, researchers examined data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, which started in 1995. They examined 184,418 postmenopausal women from the study who answered questions about their daily alcohol consumption. During an average of 7 years of follow-up, they discovered that 70% of women in the study drank alcohol, with the average amount being just under a drink each day.

The researchers found that a certain type of cancer (ER+/PR+) had a stronger association with alcohol than others. They found that women who consumed less than one drink daily, one to two drinks, and three or more drinks, showed an increase in relative risk for developing ER+/PR+ breast cancer was 7%, 32%, and 51%, respectively.

Jasmine Lew commented that, “our study at this point provides evidence for the notion that alcohol affects estrogen metabolism, which increases risk of hormone sensitive breast cancer. Still, more study is needed to clarify the effect of alcohol on other tumor types.”

The researchers state that they did not have enough data to support a definitive conclusion as to whether alcohol influences development of other breast cancer tumor types, but they did have enough to study alcohol’s influence on ER+/PR+ breast cancer.

There has been mixed messages about alcohol. Some say that one drink per day is beneficial to health; whereas, studies like this give examples of how it may be harmful. I think that it’s best to stay away from regular consumption of alcohol. On special occasions, or even just while hanging out with friends, I think it’s ok to drink in moderation.

Reference: American Association for Cancer Research

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