Just one alcoholic drink a day increases breast cancer risk

Woman drinking

Woman drinking

Just one glass of an alcoholic drink per day can increase a woman's risk of breast cancer, a major new report suggests.

The study also found that being overweight or obese increased the chance of post-menopausal breast cancer, but cut the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer if people were overweight in their younger years.

New guidelines were introduced in 2016 which said that men and women should drink no more than 14 units a week - equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine - and some days should be free of alcohol altogether.

To analyze the relationship between breast cancer risk and alcohol, the researchers analyzed 10 studies involving premenopausal woman, and 22 studies involving postmenopausal women.

What Are The Other Risk Factors?

One puzzling finding: Women who were overweight under the age of 30 had a lower risk of breast cancer after menopause.

However, Dr Anne McTiernan, lead report author and cancer expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said the evidence regarding breast cancer was clear.

Diet also had an impact on risk, although evidence was limited.

"Mice exposed to human triple-negative breast cancer cells experienced significantly reduced metastastic growth in their lungs after being treated with luteolin", said researcher Salman Hyder. Alcohol increases estrogen, which is linked to increased breast-cancer risk, while physical activity reduces it. "It's not a guarantee you'll avoid injury in a vehicle accident, but it significantly reduces your risk", said McTiernan, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle. And they get specific about alcohol: the amount that raises your risk is just 10 grams per day, or about five standard drinks per week. Overall, this report supports what is already known, that alcohol consumption is a risk factor for breast cancer. Future studies should take prior-drinking habits and other health conditions into account, the review concludes, so that researchers can better determine the true effects of alcohol on heart disease and other health risks.

In the general population, 1 per cent develop cancer in any one year. Postmenopausal women had a 10 percent reduction in risk.

McTiernan advised that women do the following to reduce their risk for breast cancer, and added "it's never too late to start". For every 5-point increase in body mass index (BMI), the risk of breast cancer rose by 12 percent, McTiernan said.

"Physically active individuals who exercise outdoors are also likely to have higher sunlight exposure and consequently increased Vitamin D, which may influence cancer risk", the report states.

Bender acknowledged that exercising more and drinking less are not surefire ways to prevent cancer, just like exercising less and drinking more won't condemn you to a diagnosis.

Maintain weight at a normal level.

Ruddy also recommends exercising and minimizing alcohol intake. Limit alcoholic beverages to one per day, on average.

"Hopefully, there will be additional studies forthcoming to further clarify optimal strategies for prevention", she said.

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