According to the results of a study presented at the European Cancer Conference (ECCO 14), women who consume three or more alcoholic beverages per day (beer, wine, or spirits) are 30% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who consume less than one alcoholic beverage per day.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer) in U.S. women. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be over 178,000 new breast cancer diagnoses in U.S. women in 2007 and roughly 40,000 breast cancer deaths.
The identification of modifiable risk factors for breast cancer has been an important focus of breast cancer research. While we can’t change our family history, we can choose to engage in healthy behaviors such as regular physical activity.
Several studies have linked moderate to high alcohol consumption to an increased risk of breast cancer. It’s remained uncertain, however, whether risk varies by type of alcohol.
To further explore the link between alcohol and breast cancer, researchers in California conducted a study among more than 70,000 women (59% white, 26% African-American, and 10% Asian-American).
Study participants provided information about alcohol intake and other health behaviors and characteristics during health exams conducted between 1978 and 1985. The women were then followed through 2004. During this time, 2,829 women developed breast cancer.
- Compared to women who consumed less than one drink per day, risk of breast cancer was increased by 10% among women who consumed one to two drinks per day, and by 30% among women who consumed three or more drinks per day.
- Each type of alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) appeared to have a similar effect on breast cancer risk.
- The link between alcohol and breast cancer did not appear to vary by age or ethnicity.
This large study provides further evidence that alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, and suggests that all types of alcohol contribute to this risk.
Reference: Li Y, Baer D, Friedman GD, Udaltsova N, Klatsky AL. Wine, liquor, beer, and risk of breast cancer. Presented at ECCO-14 – The European Cancer Conference. Barcelona, Spain, September 23-27, 2007. Abstract P#1201.