Alcohol Abuse in Women and the Risk of Breast Cancer
Women metabolize alcohol differently than men. The health risks of dependence and alcohol abuse in women occurs faster than in men and in many cases is more devastating. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
- The damage to a woman’s health due to alcohol in the long term is more severe than that of men, even if the woman drinks less for a shorter period of time.
- Women more than men develop alcohol hepatitis and die of cirrhosis.
- Women are more vulnerable to brain damage from alcohol.
- Drinking increases the chance of alcohol related cancers, including breast cancer.
- Heavy drinking is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease.
New Study Affirms Alcohol’s Link to Breast Cancer
The results of a long term study following 105,986 women, 28 years, conducted by Harvard affiliated researchers and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that women who drank three to six drinks a week had an increase risk of breast cancer (15%) compared to women who did not drink. Furthermore, they found the greater the alcohol consumption, the higher the risk of developing breast cancer. Two drinks a day led to another four cases of breast cancer out of 1,000 women per year. That was a 51% increase compared to women who did not drink.
The study examined the low levels of alcohol consumption (as well as early in life and late in life) and its impact on women’s health. The researchers looked at the cumulative effects of alcohol drinking (which included binge drinking) and the risk of breast cancer. There is suspicion that long term effects of alcohol upon circulating estrogen levels may be the explanation for the increase in breast cancer risks.
In a 2009 Life after Cancer Epidemiology Study that examined moderate to heavy alcohol drinking, researchers found an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The researchers examined women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. After an eight year follow-up, researchers found a predominate increase in risk of cancer recurrence for women who consumed two or more glasses of wine per day.
In 2010, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center examined women who were part of the Women’s Health Initiative that included post menopausal women. Women were grouped according to the number of drinks consumed weekly. The researchers were examining the types of breast cancer and the increase risk associated with alcohol and breast cancer. There was a strong link between alcohol consumption and lobular carcinoma, while ductal carcinoma is the most common.
The risks of low level alcohol consumption and breast cancer are real. It is up to each woman to determine what the risk is worth. But, women who abuse alcohol should seek treatment because of the increased risk of breast cancer tied to alcohol consumption.
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