Women Have No Idea. Here’s How Alcohol Boosts Breast Cancer
There’s a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk.
Drinking alcohol is known to raise women’s risk of developing breast cancer, and increases your risk of many types of other cancer, whether you drink a lot or relatively little.
Most women may not realize is that drinking even relatively small amounts of alcohol can be a risk factor for cancer.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which represents many of the country’s cancer doctors, hopes to change that.
The study researchers analyzed information from 205 women who were undergoing breast cancer screening or seeking treatment for breast cancer symptoms at a U.K. hospital. The women were surveyed about their knowledge of risk factors for breast cancer.
About half the women surveyed knew that smoking was a risk factor for breast cancer, and 30% recognized obesity as a risk factor. But only about 20% knew that consuming alcohol was a risk factor, the study found.
Even among health care staff, knowledge of the connection between alcohol and breast cancer was still lacking — of 33 health care staff surveyed, 49% identified alcohol as a risk factor for breast cancer.
The new study was conducted at a single health center in the U.K., and so the findings don’t necessarily apply to the general population.
The new study also suggests that it may be difficult for people to estimate exactly how much alcohol they consume. The study showed that more than half of participants couldn’t correctly estimate the alcohol content in any of four commonly consumed alcoholic drinks — a glass of wine, a pint of beer, a liter of cider and a bottle of liquor.
“This suggests that many women may be unaware that their level of alcohol consumption may be increasing their risk of breast cancer,” the authors wrote in the June 18 issue of the journal BMJ Open.
It’s possible that breast cancer screenings and visits for breast cancer symptoms might serve as “teachable moments” to inform women about ways to decrease their breast cancer risk, such as by reducing alcohol consumption, the authors said.
Modifiable Risk Factors
There are some risk factors you can’t change, such as Age, genetics, family history, and personal medical history are non-modifiable risk factors.
How much alcohol you drink is something you have control of. Any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer, according to Sardesai. “However, absolute increase in risk with low-to-moderate alcohol consumption is small. It is better to avoid alcohol consumption to reduce breast cancer risk,” he added. [ Cancer Risk Alcohol: A Bottle Of Wine Equals Many Cigarettes ]
According to the CDC Trusted Source, a standard drink is equal to 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. That’s about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or a 1.5 ounce shot of 80-proof alcohol. Alcohol consumption isn’t the only modifiable risk factor for breast cancer.
Alcohol And Cancer By The Numbers
The statement — which is based on previously published studies — comes at a time when Americans are drinking more alcohol.
A study published earlier this year in JAMA Psychiatry found that between 2001 to 2002 and 2012 to 2013, the number of high-risk drinkers in the United States increased almost 30 percent. During that time, the number of people who would be classified as having an alcohol use disorder increased by almost 50 percent.
A survey of 4,016 adults earlier this year by ASCO found that while most Americans know that cigarette smoking and sun exposure are risk factors for cancer, only 30 percent realized that drinking alcohol is a risk factor.
The cancer risk due to alcohol is high enough that an earlier study Trusted Source estimated that 5 percent of all new cancer cases and 5 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide are due to alcohol. [ What Is Virotherapy?]