Even low levels of alcohol increase breast cancer risk

A study linking alcohol consumption to breast cancer risk garnered a significant amount of coverage, with all three national news broadcasts covering the story recently. The story received more coverage than any other on the national broadcasts, with regard to time. The story was also covered extensively by wires and print media. ABC World News reported, “The results are in from the biggest study of its kind in history, by the American Medical Association. 100,000 women followed over 28 years, and the conclusion? Less than a drink a day even a glass of wine with dinner, could change the risk of breast cancer.” ABC World News aired a second segment on the topic, with ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser commenting on the study. NBC Nightly News reported, “This link isn’t new material, but until now, research has focused on higher levels of drinking than that.” While CBS Evening News quoted study author Dr. Wendy Chen as saying, “What was new about our study is that we had enough statistical power to look at the effect of lower levels of alcohol consumption in breast cancer risk.”

The Washington Post reports that investigators “analyzed data collected from 105,986 women ages 30 to 55 who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, an ongoing project scrutinizing a host of women’s health issues, between 1980 and 2008.” Altogether, “7,690 of the women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.” Women “who consumed a low level of alcohol – between about 5 and 10 grams a day, which works out to about three to six glasses of wine a week – were 15 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Bloomberg News reports that “two drinks a day increased the risk to 51 percent, according to” the study.

The investigators also reported that “no increase in breast cancer risk was seen in the group who drank less than three glasses of wine a week compared with those who didn’t drink.” The research “was funded by the National Institutes of Health.”

The New York Times “Well” blog reports, “The type of alcohol the women drank did not alter the risk: Red wine raised it just as much as beer.” The investigators “also asked the nurses about drinking patterns early in adulthood and found strong associations with increased risk regardless of age.”

The AP reports, “Given research suggesting that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol including red wine may protect against heart disease, deciding whether to avoid alcohol is a personal choice that should be based on a woman’s other risks for breast cancer and heart disease, the researchers said.”

WebMD reports that “frequency of drinking — how often women drank during the week and when — did not appear to influence risk. The key component was how much you consistently drank over time.”

HealthDay reports, “One reason for the connection may be that alcohol raises levels of circulating estrogen, and high levels of estrogen are linked to breast cancer, Chen said.”

 

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