Wine and Breast Cancer
The Relationship between Wine and Breast Cancer
There has been a cloud of inconsistencies and controversy surrounding the association between moderate wine consumption and Breast Cancer. The one consistent conclusion is that drinking 3 or more drinks per day significantly increases your risk of getting Breast Cancer.
In 1997, a study by Dr. Thun et. al. from the American Cancer Society and Epidemiology Unit at Oxford indicated the benefit of moderate alcohol consumption. They showed that women who were moderate drinkers (one drink per day) had a lower death rate than non-drinkers. The results were statistically significant, with a 21% reduction, but the majority of the benefit came from cardiovascular disease.
However, recently published information is not as favorable with respect to breast cancer. Dr. Smith-Warner et. al. from Harvard studied the association between alcohol consumption and Breast Cancer. Their results showed a linear increase in breast cancer over a wide range of consumption. This group of researchers is highly regarded in the medical research field, and their results are widely accepted. Overall, they concluded that for every 10 grams of alcohol ingested daily, there was a 9% increase in Breast Cancer risk.
There have been other studies that have examined this relationship with mixed results. The only constant seems to be with alcohol consumption over 3 drinks per day, which increases Breast Cancer risk dramatically.
Mechanism of Alcohol Induced Breast Cancer
The ambiguity of results regarding the relationship between alcohol and Breast Cancer pales in comparison to the knowledge of the actual mechanism that may cause this phenomenon. But several researchers have studied this and their results are promising.
It is thought that alcohol increases circulating levels of estrogenic hormones in post-menopausal women. Two separate studies by respected researchers have verified this postulate. The main premise of these studies lies in the fact that the women were on estrogen replacement therapies. To further complicate matter, women not on estrogen replacement did not see a change in estrogenic hormones due to alcohol consumption. It seems that pre menopausal women have a high enough estrogen level to buffer the changes brought on by alcohol. While post menopausal women do not, and their serum estrogenic hormone levels fluctuate.
The importance of this is two fold. There is a much higher rate of Breast Cancer in post menopausal women than pre menopausal women. This confounding variable dilutes the validity of the association between alcohol consumption and Breast Cancer. But, it is known that fluctuations in estrogenic hormone levels can be a cause of Breast Cancer. This is one of the dilemmas facing health professionals. Without more research into the association between alcohol and Breast Cancer, it is difficult to make recommendations to the general public.
Some studies showed a slight decrease or no increase in the risk of Breast Cancer from moderate wine consumption; while others show a linear increase in Breast Cancer risk with increased alcohol consumption. For medical professionals, an in-depth look into the patient’s background gives insight into the right course of action. The two main factors in this situation seem to be heart disease and cancer. For those with low risk of heart disease and familial history of breast cancer, it would be wise to refrain from drinking. For those who are at risk of heart disease, it may be beneficial to drink moderately.
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