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Alcohol Consumption and Breast Cancer (online only)
February 2011
By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

A:    Overall, studies seem to be confirming earlier advice from the American Institute for Cancer Research that alcohol consumption should be minimized to reduce breast cancer risk.  Most official advice states that women should drink “no more than one standard alcoholic drink per day,” with the understanding that even this amount does pose some breast cancer risk. A recent study of breast cancer survivors found that women drinking three or more standard alcoholic drinks per week had a 35 percent increased risk of recurrence compared to non-drinkers.  Alcohol may affect some women more strongly than others.  For example, women with low vegetable and fruit consumption could be at more risk from alcohol. Their resulting low consumption of antioxidants and the B vitamin folate leaves them vulnerable to the folate-depleting effects of alcohol and less able to repair the DNA damage from the free radicals that form as alcohol is metabolized.  Alcohol particularly increases risk of the common estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers, which may be why postmenopausal women who are overweight or obese (and thus generally have higher estrogen levels) seem to show more alcohol-related risk in some studies.  Overall, studies suggest a small increase in breast cancer risk with one standard alcoholic drink per day (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor). Risk increases with higher consumption. That said, when it comes to post-menopausal breast cancer, a healthy weight and regular physical activity are protective, so don’t lose sight of those targets in your strategy to lower breast cancer risk.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $91 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association which operates as the umbrella organization for the network .The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (www.wcrf-uk.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org); and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (www.fmrc.fr).


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