Breast Cancer: Could Happy Hour Drinks Be The Problem?

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Editor's Note: Ah, that glass of wine at the end of the day. The refreshing mojito out on the porch. The appletinis we sip when we're out with girlfriends after a long day -- could they be increasing our risk of breast cancer? In this post, Elaine Schattner, M.D. offers her take. -- AVF

The newly-​​published cor­rel­ative data, in the November 2 issue of JAMA, are clear. The findings, an off­shoot of the Nurses’ Health Study, involve over 105,000 women mon­i­tored from 1980 until 2008. The bottom line is that even low levels of alcohol con­sumption, the equiv­alent to three to six drinks per week, are associated with a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­icant but slight increase in breast cancer inci­dence. And the more a woman drinks, the more likely she is to develop breast cancer.

Photo by David Leong.

All things con­sidered, it might be true that alcohol is a breast car­cinogen, as Dr. Steven Narod calls it in the edi­torial accom­pa­nying the research study. Still, there’s no proof of cause and effect: Other factors, like consuming lots of food or perhaps some yet-​​unidentified par­tic­u­larity about living in com­mu­nities with abundant food and alcohol, are potential co-​​variables in this story. But what if it is true?

How I see it is this: Everything’s best in mod­er­ation, including enjoyment of one’s life. You work, you rest, you have some fun. This evi­dence is not like the strong data linking cig­a­rettes to smoking that offi­cials sat on for a few decades under the influence of the tobacco industry. This is a plau­sible, mild, and at this point well-​​documented correlation.

Read more from On Alcohol and Breast Cancer, Guilt, Correlations, Fun, Moderation, Doctors’ Habits, Advice and Herbal Tea at Medical Lessons


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