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Light alcohol consumption tied to increased risk of breast cancer in women


Photo Credit: Alex Ranaldi

Derived From: Natural News
Original Author: Amy Goodrich

In 1987, a working group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – an agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) – listed cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and liver as “causally related to the consumption of alcoholic beverages.” After a review of scientific data in 2007, the IARC added breast cancer and colorectal cancers to the previous list.

The connection between various forms of cancer and excessive drinking is nothing new. However, recent evidence suggests that even light alcohol consumption may result in a higher risk of breast cancer, both pre- and postmenopausal.

These new findings, by Dr. Kevin D. Shield from the IARC in Lyon, France, and his team, were published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research earlier this year. The results shine a new light on the long-standing debate about whether or not light alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

Relationship between drinking alcohol and developing breast cancer

Dr. Shield and his team pooled the data of 15 meta-analyses on breast cancer risk and alcohol. They found that alcohol affects the risk of breast cancer in three different ways: Alcohol consumption alters hormone levels, produces highly reactive DNA-damaging free radicals, and may block folate absorption, which can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

Furthermore, they found a dose-response relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer – even at low levels of consumption.

Dr. Shield and colleagues noted: “All levels of evidence showed a risk relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer, even at low levels of consumption. Due to this strong relationship, and to the amount of alcohol consumed globally, the incidence of and mortality from alcohol-attributable breast cancer is large.”

Global impact of light alcohol consumption on breast cancer incidence and mortality

About one in eight U.S. women (or about 12 percent) will develop invasive breast cancer at some point during their lives. According to the WHO, alcohol kills approximately 3.3 million people worldwide, with as many as 60 different diseases associated with alcohol use, breast cancer included.

To assess the global impact of alcohol on breast cancer, the researchers used data from the GLOBOCAN database and the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health, which record alcohol consumption and cancer incidence and mortalities.

Using this data and an analyzing tool called Population Attributable Fraction (PAF), Dr. Shield’s team calculated that in 2012, some 144,000 breast cancer diagnoses and 38,000 breast cancer deaths worldwide were the result of alcohol use.

Additionally, they report that in 18.8 percent of the diagnoses, and more than 17 percent of the deaths, the women were likely only light drinkers or people who drank less than one and a half alcoholic beverages per day.

While these new findings give us an idea of how alcohol, even in moderation, can affect a woman’s health, there are a few caveats to this review. A population analysis is not 100 percent reliable, as women could be wrongly classified. Also, the fact that women who abstain from drinking are usually in better health is not taken into account.

The U.S. government suggests that people who decide to drink should do so in moderation, and individuals who do not drink any alcohol should not start or be encouraged to do so. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women can drink up to one alcoholic beverage a day, while men can drink up to two glasses a day.

However, before you reach for that daily glass of wine or bottle of beer, you may want to consider the long-term effects that even moderate alcohol consumption may have on your health.

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