Wine, women and... spirits, beer and breast cancer risk

September 27, 2007

Barcelona, Spain: One of the largest individual studies of the effects of alcohol on the risk of breast cancer has concluded that it makes no difference whether a woman drinks wine, beer or spirits (liquor) - it is the alcohol itself (ethyl alcohol) and the quantity consumed that is likely to trigger the onset of cancer. The increased breast cancer risk from drinking three or more alcoholic drinks a day is similar to the increased breast cancer risk from smoking a packet of cigarettes or more a day

Speaking at a news briefing today (Thursday) at the European Cancer Conference (ECCO 14) in Barcelona, Dr Arthur Klatsky said: "Population studies have consistently linked drinking alcohol to an increased risk of female breast cancer, but there has been little data, most of it conflicting, about an independent role played by the choice of beverage type."

Dr Klatsky, adjunct investigator in the Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, Oakland, USA, and his colleagues studied the drinking habits of 70,033 multi-ethnic women who had supplied information during health examinations between 1978-1985. By 2004, 2,829 of these women had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In one analysis, the researchers compared the choice of drink amongst women who tended to favour one type of drink over another with women who had no clear preference. They also looked for any association between the frequency of drinking one type of alcoholic drink over another. Finally, they examined the role of total alcohol intake, comparing it with women who drank less than one alcoholic drink a day.

They found that there was no difference in the risk of developing breast cancer between wine, beer or spirits. Even when wine was divided into red and white, there was no difference. However, when they looked at the relationship between breast cancer risk and total alcohol intake, the researchers found that women who drank between one and two alcoholic drinks per day increased their risk of breast cancer by 10% compared with light drinkers who drank less than one drink a day; and the risk of breast cancer increased by 30% in women who drank more than three drinks a day.

When they looked at specific groups, stratified according to age or ethnicity, the results were similar.

Dr Klatsky said: "Statistical analyses limited to strata of wine preferrers, beer preferrers, spririts preferrers or non-preferrers each showed that heavier drinking - compared to light drinking - was related to breast cancer risk in each group. This strongly confirms the relation of ethyl alcohol per se to increased risk."

He continued: "A 30% increased risk is not trivial. To put it into context, it is not much different from the increased risk associated with women taking oestrogenic hormones. Incidentally, in this same study we have found that smoking a pack of cigarettes or more per day is related to a similar (30%) increased risk of breast cancer."

Although breast cancer incidence varies between populations and only a small proportion of women are heavy drinkers, Dr Klatsky said that a 30% increase in the relative risk of breast cancer from heavy drinking might translate into approximately an extra 5% of all women developing breast cancer as a result of their habit.

Other studies, including research from the same authors, have shown that red wine can protect against heart attacks, but Dr Klatsky said that different mechanisms were probably at work.

"We think that the heart protection benefit from red wine is real, but is probably derived mostly from alcohol-induced higher HDL ('good') cholesterol, reduced blood clotting and reduced diabetes. None of these mechanisms are known to have anything to do with breast cancer. The coronary benefit from drinking red wine may also be related to favourable drinking patterns common among wine drinkers or to the favourable traits of wine drinkers, as evidenced by US and Danish studies."

Dr Klatsky said that all medical advice needed to be personalised to the individual. "The only general statement that could be made as a result of our findings is that it provides more evidence for why heavy drinkers should quit or cut down."

He concluded: "This has been fascinating research. Our group has been involved in studies of alcohol drinking and health for more than three decades, including in the area of heart disease. We are fortunate to have data available about a large, multi-ethnic population with a variety of drinking habits."
-end-


ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation

Related Breast Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Oncotarget: IGF2 expression in breast cancer tumors and in breast cancer cells
The Oncotarget authors propose that methylation of DVDMR represents a novel epigenetic biomarker that determines the levels of IGF2 protein expression in breast cancer.

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.

Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.

Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.

More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.

Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.

Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.

Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.

Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.

Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.

Read More: Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.