Alcohol and Breast Cancer: How Many Drinks Are OK?

Now that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is coming to a close, I want to say that it is great that women can discuss breast health issues in an open and nonjudgmental manner. In addition, research is the reason that many advances have been made in the past several years. We do have a long way to go, but we can support the effort by donating a few dollars to a breast cancer research organization or by participating in clinical trials. It all counts!

Posted on | Katherine Lee, MD | Comments ()

Now that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is coming to a close, I want to say that it is great that women can discuss breast health issues in an open and nonjudgmental manner. In addition, research is the reason that many advances have been made in the past several years. We do have a long way to go, but we can support the effort by donating a few dollars to a breast cancer research organization or by participating in clinical trials. It all counts!

I wanted to share with you some information about alcohol and breast cancer. There have been several studies on this topic, and for the most part, research shows that alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer. A few recent studies have shown that not only does alcohol increase risk but that this was dependent on the amount that was consumed. In other words, the more you drink, the greater the risk. The type of alcohol did not seem to make a difference. These studies have also estimated a 20-30% increased risk if you had 2 or more drinks per day. Alcohol consumption and the development of abnormal breast tissue may be related because alcohol can increase the production of estrogen. So what should a breast-health-conscious-but-wine-loving woman do?  My recommendations are:

  1. One drink per day or less is best.
  2. It does not matter what type of liquor you choose.
  3. If you tend to drink on weekends only, then have no more than 7 drinks during the weekend days.
  4. If you overindulge a little, remember to cut back in the future.
  5. Alcohol consumption is a modifiable (something you can do about) risk factor for breast cancer.
  6. Empower yourself!

The key is moderation. If you combine this with other healthy habits, you can lower your risk for breast cancer. Next week, I will talk about breast MRI and who should get one.

Dr. Lee

Blog written by Katherine Lee, MD
Dr. Lee has been at the Cleveland Clinic Breast Cancer Center for 12 years and her interests include breast cancer risk...