These results were presented as a late-breaking abstract at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research.
The American Cancer Society estimates that one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. Due to the prevalence of breast cancer in the United States, researchers continue to evaluate ways to reduce its incidence, with one area of focus being diet and exercise.
The majority of breast cancers are classified as hormone-positive. Hormone-positive breast cancer is stimulated to grow from exposure to circulating female hormones estrogen and/or progesterone.
Researchers from the University of Chicago recently conducted a study to evaluate the effects of alcohol consumption on the risk of breast cancer. This study included data from 184,418 postmenopausal women who were in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, which was initiated in 1995. The average follow-up of participants was seven years, during which 5,461 new cases of breast cancer occurred.
The risk of breast cancer with tumors that were negative for ER and PR or positive for ER and negative for PR also tended to increase with alcohol consumption, but the comparatively small number of patients with those types of tumors did not allow for definitive conclusions.
- Compared with women who abstained from drinking alcohol, the risk of hormone-positive breast cancer increased by 7% among women who consumed less than one drink per day, 32% among those who consumed one to two drinks per day, and 51% among those who consumed three or more drinks daily.
- The risk of hormone-negative breast cancer also increased with alcohol consumption; however, the small number of patients with this type of breast cancer did not allow for appropriate statistical evaluation.
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The researchers concluded that even moderate alcohol consumption appears to significantly increase the risk of hormone-positive breast cancer. The researchers speculate that alcohol may affect estrogen metabolism in a way that increases breast cancer risk.
Reference: Lew J, et al. Alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women: The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. American Association of Cancer Research Meeting 2008. Abstract 4168.
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