Even low level alcohol intake raises breast cancer risk in women

Even low level alcohol intake raises breast cancer risk in women

After yesterday’s blog I thought I would not write much on alcohol for a while and then today this massive epidemiological ‘133 study review’ fell into my lap!  Go figure!  Backing up what I was talking about, the study’s authors say “A significant increase in the risk of breast cancer is already present at intakes of up to one alcoholic drink per day…”

Why do I connect the two issues together?
We have the biggest explosion of binge-drinking that Western society have ever seen happening right now across the world.  This is young women binge-drinking themselves into a stupor – over and over again – regularly on the weekends.  It has become very cool for women to do this alongside men (who have stupidly done this for years).  This damages women in a far deeper way.  Graham A. Colditz, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis said “Since alcohol use is common in adolescent girls and young women, reducing alcohol consumption during adolescence/early adulthood is currently the only dietary strategy that may reduce risk of proliferative benign breast disease”.

The 120,000 people review covered 133 different studies
We know that alcohol causes breast cancer but what this study was about was answering the question “Does low level drinking also cause breast cancer?”  The study was a massive epidemiological review of 133 studies on alcohol intake and breast cancer by Helmut K. Seitz, PhD, from the Centre of Alcohol Research at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.  The researchers looked at decades-long data covering 44,552 breast cancer cases in non-drinkers and 77,539 breast cancer cases in light drinkers.  The authors said “A significant increase in the risk of breast cancer is already present at intakes of up to one alcoholic drink/day.  Women should not exceed one drink of alcohol a day.  For women at elevated risk for breast cancer, you should avoid alcohol or consume alcohol occasionally only” 

Heavy or light drinking raises breast cancer
The study confirmed that heavy alcohol consumption - defined as 3 or more drinks per day - is associated with a 40% to 50% increased relative risk compared with not drinking at all.  “This translates into up to 5% of breast cancers attributable to alcohol in northern Europe and North America for a total of approximately 50,000 alcohol-attributable cases of breast cancer worldwide”.  That percentage is doubled in Italy, France, the UK, Australia and New Zealand where drinking rates are higher.  Overall, up to 1% to 2% of breast cancers in Europe and North America are “attributable to light drinking alone” the authors estimate.  The relative risk for breast cancer increases by 7.1% for each additional daily drink. 

Even Dr Wendy Y. Chen, MD, MPH, commented on her 28-year study from the large Nurses’ Health Study (as published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011;306:1884-1890), that “the regular consumption of a light amount of alcohol — 3 to 6 glasses of wine per week — over a long period of time increased a woman’s risk for invasive breast cancer…” 

How the damage is done
The researchers suggest that the effects of acetaldehyde (made by your liver every time you drink), oxidative stress (one of the initiation starting points for cancer) and epigenetic changes (your genetic expression), are to blame for the devastating breast carcinogenesis damage in the human body. 

Thus, for women there is no safe threshold for alcohol and breast cancer; drink alcohol at your own risk. 

Study published online March 28, 2012 in Alcohol and Alcoholism.  It was funded by the Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC), the Dietmar Hopp Foundation, and the Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation, Heidelberg, Germany.  As reported by Medscape.org on 23 April 2012.

Posted: Tuesday 24 April 2012