Even in small amounts, daily alcohol consumption increases breast cancer risk, new study says

June 05, 2017

From helping to shed pounds to improving your immune system, a glass of red wine a day has long been seen as being good for a your overall health.  However, a new study by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research shows that both premenopausal and postmenopausal women have a greater risk of breast cancer if they consume even a small amount of alcohol daily.

According to the study, premenopausal women who consume an average of 10 grams of alcohol each day—the equivalent of a small glass of wine, an 8-ounce beer or 1 ounce of hard liquor—increase their risk of breast cancer by 5 percent.  The risk increases to 9 percent for postmenopausal women.

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 12 percent of women will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes

Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, form Hartford HealthCare Medical Group Oncology at the New London Cancer Center, says this study needs to be put into the proper perspective.

“We hear various reports of what is and what is not healthy for us.  This information about alcohol use and breast cancer speaks to a bigger issue: knowing how to stay healthy and working to be healthy saves lives.  Eating a balanced diet, exercising, not using tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption, and getting good medical care are all important,” Gordon says.   

In the latest report, researchers examined more than 100 studies on breast cancer risk worldwide, including 12 million women and more than 260,000 cases of breast cancer.

According to the study reasons for the increased risk of breast cancer include elevated levels of estrogen and the potential of alcohol being converted into acetaldehyde—a chemical that can cause mutations in DNA—in exposed tissue.

There is some good news.  The study did show that increased physical activity—from walks to more rigorous workouts—and other controllable lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and quitting smoking decreases the risk of breast cancer for all women.

“I tell my patients to ask what they can do, working with their doctors and medical providers, to live a healthier life.  There is a lot that can be done, but people first need to be involved in their own healthcare," Gordon says.