Alcohol should be avoided for breast cancer


Moderate to high alcohol intake has been shown to contribute to the risks of colorectal cancer, upper aerodigestive (mouth, esophagus, larynx, and pharynx) cancers, liver cancer, gallbladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, and melanoma. On the other hand, some studies have found inverse associations between alcohol drinking and renal cell cancer, thyroid cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk. Moderate alcohol consumption is also associated with lower levels of cardiovascular risk and type 2 diabetes in women. Several studies have found that those who consume an average of one or two drinks per day tend to have lower all cause mortality than those who either do not drink or consume three or more drinks per day. Folate or folic acid was initially reported to reduce the alcohol consumption-related risk of breast cancer, however recent studies have failed to confirm this.

Breast cancer-related effects of drinking alcohol

Alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer and reduces survival. The beneficial micronutrients in red wine do not mitigate the harmful effects of alcohol. Alcohol consumption appears to increase the aggressiveness of breast cancer. One 2015 study reported that chronic ethanol exposure transformed both hormone receptor positive (ER+/PR+) and triple negative (ER-/PR-/HER2-) breast cancer cells, increasing the stem cell-like population more than 20-fold. Breast cancer cells exposed to ethanol and implanted in mice displayed a much higher growth rate and metastasis than those not so exposed.

The relationship between alcohol and breast cancer risk depends in part on a woman's individual genetic makeup. For example, fast metabolizers of alcohol have been shown to have a higher risk of breast cancer from a given level of alcohol intake than slow metabolizers. Consuming several drinks at once may be more risky than limiting consumption to one drink per session. Occasional binge drinking increases breast cancer risk even among moderate drinkers. Alcohol consumption has been found to preferentially increase the risk of triple negative breast cancer in African-American women.

Based on the evidence to date, a glass of wine with food every other day might be a safe level of consumption.

Below are links to recent studies concerning this food. For a more complete list of studies, please click on alcohol.

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Selected breast cancer studies

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