The link between breast cancer and alcohol is well-established. With every drink you consume, your risk increases. Compared with non-drinkers, women who have 1 alcoholic drink a day have a slight increase in risk. Those who have 2 or 3 drinks a day are increasing their risk by about 20%.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women who drink have no more than 1 drink a day. If you don’t drink, you may think twice about starting now.
Until recently, breast cancer awareness campaigns mostly focused on early screening and detection (both *very* important). Still, a recent survey of 19,000 Avon employees across the globe revealing a huge gap in knowledge regarding preventive lifestyle habits shows that more can be done.
Got questions? See if we’ve answered them below:
Q: I keep hearing that drinking a glass of wine daily is healthy for my heart… is it true?
A: While it’s true that the resveratrol in wine is heart-healthy, all alcoholic beverages have been shown to have a very strong link to breast cancer – manifesting particularly in women during perimenopause and menopause.
Evidence shows that vigorous exercise is a much more effective way to keep your heart healthy. As an added bonus, it’s good for breast and brain health too! A review of 31 studies showed that physical activity could significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Q: Why is my risk of developing breast cancer higher during perimenopause and menopause?
A: All the different things that can increase the risk of breast cancer have one thing in common: they all affect the hormones circulating around in the body in some way. Alcohol consumption and menopause can both increase levels of circulating hormones in the body, including estrogen. High levels of estrogen have been shown to fuel the development of breast cancer.
Since both early-life (before first pregnancy) alcohol consumption and recent alcohol consumption seem to contribute to breast cancer in adult women, it’s never too early to start limiting your alcohol intake.
Q: So, how many drinks can I have?
A: Studies show that even small amounts of alcohol (≤1 drink/day or ≤12.5 g/day) can significantly increase your risk.
To put this all this into perspective, in the United States, a standard drink contains about 14 grams of alcohol. This corresponds to a 12-US-fluid-ounce (350 ml) glass of beer, a 5-US-fluid-ounce (150 ml) glass of 12% wine, or a 1.5-US-fluid-ounce (44 ml) glass of spirits.
Experts recommend either abstaining from alcohol altogether or strictly limiting your consumption. If you drink, consider taking several days off in between. Incorporating other lifestyle habits that show a preventive effect (ie. vigorous exercise) can also be useful.
Q: Every day the news seems to say something different. What kind of evidence is there to support the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer?
A: Over time, studies have shown a consistent link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer in adult women. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers alcohol intake causally related to breast cancer. In fact, breast cancer risk is significantly increased by 4–15% even with light alcohol consumption (≤1 drink/day or ≤12.5 g/day), which does not significantly increase cancer risk in other organs of women.
Click here for some tips on how to avoid the social pressures of drinking, and look out for alternative lifestyle tips for prevention – coming soon!
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