NLM Director's Comments Transcript
Alcohol & Breast Cancer Risk: 12/07/2011
URL of this page: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/podcast/transcript120711.html
Moreover, the study found the participants who reported they drank the equivalent of two glasses of wine a day over time were 51 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women who never or rarely drank. Hence, the study suggests higher drinking levels significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
The study also found an increased risk of breast cancer was more linked to cumulative drinking over time rather than what type of alcohol participants drank, or the age when a woman begins to consume wine, spirits, or beer.
While the study's five authors note previous research linked alcohol consumption to breast cancer, the current study specifies some of the associations between alcohol consumption and breast cancer and its findings are based on an unprecedented three decades of data gathering.
An editorial accompanying the study explains the findings are the first to suggest the risk of breast cancer may begin at a moderate level of alcohol consumption (the equivalent of about three glasses of wine a week).
Nevertheless, the study's authors noted the current research does not yield insights if giving up drinking lowers a women's risk of breast cancer.
Steven Narod M.D., the research chair in breast cancer at Women's College Research Institute in Toronto (who wrote the editorial that accompanied the study), adds its findings suggest no association between very light alcohol consumption (a couple of drinks a week) and increased breast cancer risk.
Narod further contextualizes the study's findings by juxtaposing it with recent research that ties moderate to light alcohol consumption with cardiovascular benefits. Narod writes (and we quote): 'Women who abstain from all alcohol may find that a potential benefit of lower breast cancer risk is more than offset by the relinquished benefit of reduced cardiovascular mortality associated with an occasional glass of red wine' (end of quote).
The study's findings are derived from the U.S. Nurses Health study that provides comprehensive longitudinal information about women's health issues. Participants were between age 30 and 55 and healthy at the time they enrolled in the study. About 7,700 study participants were diagnosed with breast cancer from 1980 through 2008. The authors controlled for other causes of breast cancer, such as weight and smoking, in their data analysis.
The authors noted participants in the U.S. Nurses Health study self-reported drinking habits at seven periodic intervals from 1988-2006. The authors acknowledge the study's findings are observational, or do not compare the participants with a control group.
Meanwhile within MedlinePlus.gov, the American Cancer Society provides a good introduction to the broader relationship between cancer and alcohol. The link to this website is found within the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's alcohol health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov's alcohol health topic page also covers a variety of other health risks associated with alcohol consumption, such as high blood pressure, interactions with medicines, and poisoning. These and other issues are found in the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's alcohol health topic page.
Both MedlinePlus.gov's alcohol and breast cancer health topic pages contain research summaries, which are available in the 'research' section. Links to the latest pertinent journal research articles about alcohol and breast cancer are available in the 'journal articles' section within each health topic page.
To find MedlinePlus.gov's breast cancer health topic page, type 'breast cancer' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'breast cancer (National Library of Medicine).' To find MedlinePlus.gov's alcohol health topic page, type 'alcohol' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'alcohol (National Library of Medicine).'
Overall, the findings in the current JAMA study suggest a need for more research about alcohol and cancer as well as the broader impact of alcohol consumption on women's health. While the JAMA study provides new insights about the impact of cumulative levels of drinking over time on breast cancer, the comparative health risks and benefits of alcohol consumption for women or men have yet to be determined.
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NLM Director's Comments Transcript - Alcohol & Breast Cancer Risk: MedlinePlus
Low levels of alcohol consumption (or about three drinks a week) were associated with a significantly increased risk of breast cancer – in findings derived from a larger study of nurses recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.