Recommendations For Alcohol Use
There is no proven way to completely prevent cancer. However, there are steps you can take to lower your alcohol-related risk:
Limit the number of alcoholic beverages you drink. For women, limit it to no more than 1 drink a day. For men, limit it to no more than 1 to 2 drinks a day. A drink is defined as:
12 ounces or 341 milliliters of beer
5 oz or 142 ml of wine
1.5 oz or 43 ml of 80-proof liquor
This is the definition of moderate drinking. You can view a table that summarizes what counts as a standard drink. Please note this link takes you to a separate website. Women concerned about their breast cancer risk may want to further limit their alcohol intake to no more than 3 to 4 drinks a week.
Do not binge drink or drink heavily. For women, heavy drinking means having 4 or more drinks in a short period. For men, it means having 5 or more drinks. Binge drinking may increase your risk for certain cancers, even if you do not binge drink often.;
Do not make an exception for red wine. There is no clear evidence that drinking red wine helps to prevent cancer. Thus, the current recommended limits also apply to red wine.;;
Avoid using both alcohol and tobacco products. The combination further increases the risks of developing certain cancers. These include cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus.
Talk with your doctor if you are taking menopausal hormone therapy. Combined with alcohol, this may further increase the risk of some cancers, such as breast cancer.
Yes Drinking Alcohol Can Increase Your Risk Of Breast Cancer
- A strong body of scientific evidence shows alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer.
- Many women remain unaware of the role alcohol can play in breast cancer risk.
- The Alcohol Research Group in California is working to change that with the #DrinkLessForYourBreasts initiative, which seeks to educate women about the risk.
- No amount of alcohol is considered safe, but smaller amounts of alcohol have minimal risk.
For decades, researchers have been studying the connection between alcohol use and breast cancer, and a strong body of evidence shows drinking ups the risk.
Despite this work, many women in the United States remain unaware that drinking habits could affect their chance of getting cancer.
A new campaign from the Alcohol Research Group in California aims to change that. The #DrinkLessForYourBreasts initiative seeks to educate women about the risk and urges them to consider the impact drinking alcohol can have on their health.
The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness among young women that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer, Priscilla Martinez, PhD, a scientist with ARG, told Healthline.
There is 30 years worth of evidence supporting this so were pretty confident that this relationship is real. But the vast majority of young women have no idea that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer.
study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports found that only 25 percent of women ages 15 to 44 were aware of this connection.
Cancers Linked To Alcohol Use
Alcohol use has been linked with cancers of the:
Alcohol probably also increases the risk of cancer of the stomach, and might affect the risk of some other cancers as well.
For each of these cancers, the more alcohol you drink, the higher your cancer risk. But for some types of cancer, most notably breast cancer, consuming even small amounts of alcohol can increase risk.
Cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, and esophagus: Alcohol use clearly raises the risk of these cancers. Drinking and smoking together raises the risk of these cancers many times more than drinking or smoking alone. This might be because alcohol can help harmful chemicals in tobacco get inside the cells that line the mouth, throat, and esophagus. Alcohol may also limit how these cells can repair damage to their DNA caused by the chemicals in tobacco.
Liver cancer: Long-term alcohol use has been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer. Regular, heavy alcohol use can damage the liver, leading to inflammation and scarring, which might be why it raises the risk of liver cancer.
Colon and rectal cancer: Alcohol use has been linked with a higher risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. The evidence for this is generally stronger in men than in women, but studies have found the link in both sexes.
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What About Risk Of Alcohol And Breast Cancer Recurrence Or A Second Primary Breast Cancer
One systematic review looked at six databases and 16 studies, of which 11 assessed breast cancer recurrence.
About half of the 11 studies showed a modest, but significant association between alcohol consumption and increased risk of breast cancer recurrence. Two of the included studies suggested the association was stronger in postmenopausal women.
This same study observed that the association between alcohol and second primary breast cancer is less clear.
However, the WCRF report on diet, nutrition, physical activity and breast cancer survivorsdoes not at this time find evidence strong enough to make specific recommendations for survivors on alcohol and recurrence risk.
As a dietitian, Im trained to use research in making nutrition recommendations for others.
As a breast cancer survivor, I make personal nutrition and diet decisions based on my diagnosis AND the research. I believe alcohol may have contributed to my cancer. Of course I have no way of confirming that. But whos to say continuing to drink wouldnt negatively influence my recurrence risk?
I just couldnt discount the connection found in the review . And research is ongoing. Because the evidence isnt strong enough NOW, doesnt mean it wont be in the future.
I understand how findings like those in the WCRF report make it easy to dismiss the concerns around alcohol. And should you choose to? Theres nothing wrong with that.
Theres no judgment either way.
How Breast Cancer In Diagnosed
Heres a list of primary symptoms which helps to diagnose the breast cancer. Source: Cancer.org
Lump, hard knot or thinking inside the breast or underarm area.
;Swelling, Warmth, Redness or Darkening of the breast.
;Change in the size or shape of the breast.
;Dimpling or puckering of the skin.
;Itchy, Scaly sore or rash on the nipple.
;Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast.
;Nipple discharge that starts suddenly.
;New pain in the spot that does not go away.
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Whats A Safe Amount Of Alcohol To Drink
Depending on which research you read, or from whom you get your information, youre likely to get conflicting and confusing messages on HOW MUCH alcohol is safe to drink after youve been diagnosed.
Because of the inconsistencies and variations in research, its difficult to draft concrete guidelines. Remember, the WCRF hasnt issued specific alcohol guidelines for breast cancer survivors.
This is where you must decide whats comfortable for you.
Some evidence suggests ANY alcohol consumption, even at levels as low as 6 grams per day moderately increases the risk of recurrence, particularly in postmenopausal women. Thats about 1.2 teaspoons of pure alcohol, or less than ½ of a standard drink.
If that information gives you pause, but youre not ready to give up drinking completely, think about what matters most to you.
- If enjoying a special, fine dining meal means drinking good wine.
- Consider drinking only at special meals .
There are guidelines specific to alcohol consumption re: reducing risk of an INITIAL breast cancer diagnosis , but please remember to not confuse those with guidelines for risk of recurrence.
But What About Recurrence
Before you head to the bar, however, keep in mind that Li didnât look at whether drinking alcohol could trigger a recurrence, either local or metastatic. He only looked at whether drinking could be linked to death â from breast cancer or something else.
âThere are other studies that have linked alcohol consumption to risks of having both a breast cancer recurrence or of developing a second breast cancer,â he said. âThese are also important outcomes because they typically lead to more treatment, potentially including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, and so they can take significant physical and emotional tolls.â
Li specifically studies how lifestyle factors like alcohol use, obesity and smoking can affect the risk of contracting breast cancer.
His 2009 study revealed breast cancer survivors who smoked and drank more than one drink a day were seven times more likely to get an ER+ breast cancer in their other breast than women who drank fewer than seven drinks a week and didnât smoke.
Breast cancer oncologist and researcher Dr. Julie Gralow said she wasnât surprised by Liâs findings.
âWeâve never had data about alcohol intake after a breast cancer diagnosis,â she said. âSo this is new information. But frankly, Iâm not surprised. Iâve always told my patients that data on alcohol intake was much stronger regarding incidence of breast cancer versus recurrence.â
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Can A Daily Glass Of Wine Help Prevent Cancer
Red wine has some health benefits, but is beating the deadly disease one of them?
Alcohol has been used for thousands of years to ward off disease likely because in centuries past, clean water was hard to come by. But in the modern era, questions as to alcohols health benefits remain. What type of alcohol, and how much, is good for you?
Wines risks and rewards
Research has shown that alcohol in moderate amounts, specifically red wine, may have some benefits to heart health, may help prevent Alzheimers disease and may improve overall health. Because moderation is key, theAmerican Cancer Society, along with the federal governments dietary guidelines, recommend no more than one drink a day for women and two for men.
I think we all underestimate our intake, saidSharon Orrange, MD, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and aprimary care physicianatKeck Medicine of USC. Its seven drinks a week for women. Men can have two drinks a night. I tell pick two to three nights during the week say Monday, Tuesday, Thursday that not going to drink at all.
Antioxidants in wine areso lowthat its a joke, he says.
Alcohol And Breast Cancer Risk: What To Know
Can as little as one alcoholic drink a day raise your breast cancerrisk? Our experts weigh in.
Can as little as one alcoholic drink a day raise your breast cancer risk?
Studies say yes. But does that mean you should steer clear of alcohol completely? And what about that glass of wine thats supposed to be good for you?
Alcoholic drinks come in three choices: beer, wine and liquor. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor. If you choose to drink, exceeding the recommended limit of one alcoholic drink a day increases your breast cancer risk.
But that risk is very low, says Therese Bevers, medical director of MD Andersons;Cancer Prevention Center. You need to be more concerned if it becomes a routine in which you drink more than one drink each day.
More than 100 studies have looked at the association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk in women. These studies, although observational meaning they draw on inferences from researchers – have consistently found an increased risk of breast cancer associated with alcohol intake.
We always question the validity of observational data, but with this were seeing it over and over again, Bevers says.
And while some studies show that one glass of wine a day can be good for your heart, you shouldnt have more if youre trying to stay healthy.
How does alcohol affect breast cancer risk?
So, why does alcohol intake increase breast cancer risk specifically?
What Breakthroughs Are Coming Next
However, when it comes to dying â usually the biggest concern for those whoâve been diagnosed â thereâs not much of an association. According to epidemiologist and lead author Dr. Christopher Li, alcohol use after a breast cancer diagnosis does not increase your risk of dying of the disease.
âModeration is very important but our study supports previous studies in suggesting that the occasional glass of wine does not seem to impact a womanâs risk of dying of breast cancer,â he said.
What’s Been The Reaction To This Report
Cancer experts say the findings don’t tell us anything new about the link between alcohol and breast cancer, which is already well known.
But if you can, to stack the odds in your favour, they say it is a good idea to have some alcohol-free days during every week and not to increase your drinking.
However, Cancer Research UK says there is no need be alarmed and “go teetotal”.
It is also important to look at the bigger picture.
Drinking alcohol has a greater effect on the risks of several other cancers – including mouth, liver and bowel – than it does on breast cancer, so there is no reason to become fixated on alcohol.
Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, says the risks have “to be set against whatever pleasure women might obtain from their drinking”.
The report does not provide absolute risks and as such, Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, said it did not seem a good basis for recommending that women give up alcohol completely.
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.
“Having a physically active lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life and limiting alcohol are all steps women can take to lower their risk.”
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Does Alcohol Raise Estrogen Levels
Drinking alcohol increases the serum level of endogenous estrogens. Serum is the clear liquid that can be separated from clotted blood. Endogenous means produced or grown in the body.
Even drinking small amounts of alcohol, say 1.25 to 2.5 standard drinks per day raises the level of estrogen.
Why is estrogen a problem? In estrogen receptor -positive human breast cancer cells, alcohol increases ER-dependent gene expression. This results in cells being reproduced quickly and at high speed.
If you had ER-positive breast cancer, the goal now is to keep estrogen levels low. Youre likely taking medication to do that. Since alcohol raises estrogen levels, drinking can be counterproductive to that effort.
Drinking After Breast Cancer Wont Raise Mortality Risk Study Shows
Weâve all heard that drinking booze â even in moderation â can bump your risk for breast cancer. As a result, many women and men diagnosed with the disease have either sworn off alcohol entirely or worry when they do imbibe.
âI feel guilty often for drinking,â said Maile Feuerman, 40-year-old, stay-at-home mom from Eureka, California, who was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. âI donât want to have to wonder if it comes back because I did this. But I love my wine.â
A new study out of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center offers a glimmer of good news for those whoâve been diagnosed and treated for the disease: moderate alcohol use after a breast cancer diagnosis wonât lead to a lethal recurrence.
Alcohol use among breast cancer survivors has been linked to increased risks of developing a breast cancer recurrence, i.e., finding more cancer in a breast thatâs already been diagnosed and, say, had a lumpectomy. Drinking also ups your risk of being diagnosed with a second breast cancer in the opposite âhealthyâ breast.
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The Overlooked Link Between Alcohol And Breast Cancer
At a recent college alumni dinner, a friend and wine expert pulled me aside and asked, Is it true that wine increases the risk of breast cancer? She knew I worked in the cancer division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , so it was a reasonable question. Ive been at wine tastings shes hosted, and I needed to be straight.;
Yes, I said, the evidence is clear: drinking alcohol of any kind increases breast cancer risk.
She looked troubled. Ive made wine my livelihood for years, she said, and I had no idea.;
We live in a culture where many people drink alcohol, even researchers who study cancer. Alcohol is often part of our social life. We share drinks with friends and raise our glasses to toast celebrations. I was tempted to reassure my friend, but the evidence linking alcohol and female breast cancer is strong. Alcohol raises the risk of other cancers as well, such as cancers of the colon and rectum, mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and liver. Drinking even one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage a day carries a small level of cancer risk.;
What Does The American Cancer Society Recommend
According to the American Cancer Society Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, it is best not to drink alcohol. People who choose to drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women.;
The recommended limit is lower for women because of their smaller body size and because their bodies tend to break down alcohol more slowly.
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