Study: Regular Drinking Appears To Boost Breast Cancer Risk | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Study: Regular Drinking Appears To Boost Breast Cancer Risk

Women who raise a glass just a few times a week appear to have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those who are teetotalers.

A study that looked at the drinking habits and development of breast cancer in more than 100,000 nurses found those who drank more had a small but detectable increase in breast cancer compared with those who drank less.

For women who had a drink a day, the risk was about 1.2 times greater than would have been expected. Over a decade, the change meant the cancer risk increased 0.7 percentage points — to 3.5 percent from 2.8 percent. Not huge, but not nothing. The researchers note the risk is associated with longstanding habits, not drinking a lot over a few weeks or months.

The findings were just published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. And they're consistent with some previous research that has suggested a cancer hazard. The latest study checked on a lot of women for many years, which is a strength. But it didn't randomize them to drinking and nondrinking groups, which limits the ability of the researchers to assess cause and effect.

What might be going on? One possibility is that alcohol may boost the level of hormones such as estrogen in the blood, which could raise cancer risks. It may be that exposure to alcohol starting in early in life is a cumulative risk that contributes to cancer that becomes evident after menopause.

An accompanying JAMA editorial asks: Should "postmenopausal women stop drinking to reduce their risk of breast cancer?" There's no clear evidence that would help. And there is evidence of health benefits from moderate drinking, such as protection against heart disease.

Harvard's Dr. Wendy Chen, lead author of the study, offered one bit of advice for those concerned about the cancer hazard. "We didn't see any increased risk of breast cancer at alcohol consumption less than three drinks per week, so that would be a safe amount to tell someone in terms of the breast cancer risk," she said in the video you can watch below.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Not My Job: Skier Mikaela Shiffrin Gets Quizzed On Downhill Cheese Races

If you think downhill ski racing is dangerous, then you've never seen the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling Races, in which competitors hurl their bodies down a steep hill, chasing a wheel of cheese.
NPR

Spread Of Palm Oil Production Into Africa Threatens Great Apes

Palm oil growers are setting their sights on Africa as they amp up production. More than half of the land that's been set aside for plantations in Africa overlaps with ape habitats, researchers say.
WAMU 88.5

Democrats Push To Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling

Virginia's Tim Kaine and other Democrats are trying to overturn the ruling with legislation they say will protect female workers.
NPR

Friday Feline Fun: A Ranking Of The Most Famous Internet Cats

Forget the Forbes Celebrity 100. This is the Friskies 50 — the new definitive guide of the most influential cats on the Internet. The list is based on a measure of the cats' social media reach.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.