Yes, Alcohol Really Does Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Despite prior recommendations that moderate amounts of alcohol is good for your health, the World Health Organization recently published guidance that said there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. Regardless of the amount, the WHO stated that drinking alcohol is associated with 23 adverse health outcomes, including cancers and cardiovascular disease. This information is particularly relevant to women, given the strong body of scientific evidence that shows consumption of alcohol can significantly increase the risk of breast cancer.

Authors of this study, published in the international medical journal, The Lancet, stated: “Our findings are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer and cardiovascular problems. Zero alcohol consumption minimizes the overall risk of health loss.”

As women seemingly seek to unwind each day with a glass of wine, they could be, unknowingly, dramatically damaging their health.  


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Alcohol and Risks of Breast Cancer

Research shows that drinking alcohol — wine, liquor, or beer — increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. The more alcohol consumed, the greater the risk according to Harvard. There is a body of scientific literature that demonstrates:

  • Just one drink per day increased the risk of breast cancer
  • Compared to women who don’t drink, women who consume three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer
  • Drinking 2-5 alcoholic drinks per day increased the risk of breast cancer by as much as 41 percent
  • Researchers found a strong link between alcohol consumption and a lack of folate in women to further increase the risk of breast cancer in women
  • Alcohol increases estrogen levels which can fuel the growth of certain breast cancers
  • Women with a family history of breast cancer who drank 1 or more alcoholic drinks per day and took less than 400 mcg of folate doubled their risk of developing breast cancer
  • Teens and young girls (aged 9 to 15 years old) who drink three to five times a week have three times the risk of developing breast lumps
  • In women who developed breast cancer and were in remission and drank three to four drinks per week increased the risk of breast cancer recurring
  • Only 25 percent of women are aware of the increased risk of alcohol consumption and developing breast cancer. 

In summary: any amount of alcohol can cause harm to your health and potentially increase the risk of breast cancer in women.

Why Does Alcohol Consumption Increase the Risk of Cancer?

Alcohol not only increases estrogen and other hormones associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer, it also can increase the risk of breast cancer by damaging the DNA in cells. Dr Megan Kruse, a medical breast oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic explains: “We know that alcohol increases the amount of estrogen in the body, and for women and particularly postmenopausal women, that has a role in developing hormone-sensitive breast cancer.”


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Steps You Can Take to Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer

The good news is that a reduction in alcohol consumption also reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Better yet, no alcohol consumption — as per the guidelines of the World Health Organization — dramatically cuts the risk of developing breast and other types of cancer and adverse health outcomes. 

Some ways to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume include:

  • Offering to be the designated driver
  • Only drinking with a meal at the weekend
  • Switching to alcohol free/zero proof cocktails (also known as mocktails). There are hundreds of alcohol free drinks on the market
  • Taking part in a 30-day alcohol free challenge like Sober October, Dry January (or any other month of the year)
  • Why not support a friend in recovery by being their sober buddy they can go to social events with?

There is also a recent campaign launched by the Alcohol Research Group in California that aims to educate women about the increased risk of developing breast cancer through their drinking habits. It’s called #DrinkLessForYourBreasts.

Dr Priscilla Martinez, a scientist at Alcohol Research Group explained that the purpose of this campaign is to raise awareness among women that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer. Dr. Martinez told Healthline, “There is 30 years’ worth of evidence supporting this so we’re pretty confident that this relationship is real. But the vast majority of young women have no idea that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer.”

Alcohol-Free Resources

Despite the drinking culture in the US, a recovery lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular and cool. We’re seeing more and more people talk openly about their recovery, and many people are seeking out alcohol-free bars and zero-proof drink alternatives as part of their social lives. 

Some great AF (alcohol free) resources include:

Signs You May Have a Problem With Alcohol

If you find that you are struggling to reduce your alcohol intake, or that you engage in binge or harmful drinking, you may be at risk of developing alcohol use disorder. 

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

  • Moderate drinking is defined as less than two drinks per day for men and one drink or less a day for women. 
  • Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings your blood alcohol concentration level to 0.08 percent. For a typical adult that is five or more drinks for men or 4 or more for women.
  • Heavy alcohol use is defined as more than 4 drinks in a day or 14 per week for men, or 3 drinks or more per day/7 drinks per week for women
  • Alcohol Use Disorder is characterized by an inability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. AUD encompasses a range of alcohol-related conditions, including alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction and the former term alcoholism.

If you are concerned about your drinking – or the drinking of a loved one – help is available. Call 800-839-1686Who Answers? today to speak with a treatment specialist.


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