Alcohol and Breast Cancer

>> Monday, November 28, 2011

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Alcohol intake is a well-recognized risk factor for the development of breast cancer in adult women. Because certain types of benign breast disease (BBD) can predict the risk of breast cancer there is a lot of research going on to study the relationship between alcohol and BBD.

Women who reported drinking 6-7 times a week were at higher risk for BBD and subsequent breast cancer than those who only drank 1–2 times per week. This is important to know as is definitely shows a direct relationship between amount consumed and breast problems.

What we do know is that alcohol consumption increases the total level of estrogen in the blood as well as its bioavailability. There is also a significant upregulation of all the estrogen receptors in the breast.

Anytime there is an increase in estrogen or estrogen receptors it can cause the breast tissue to grow abnormally and the breasts may start to feel lumpy. It is a good time to get a mammogram or breast ultrasound followed by a biopsy if needed for evaluation.

Alcohol is an unusual form of estrogen exposure we don’t often think of. In the world we live in today we know that the food we eat and the plastics they are packaged in all increase our risk of estrogen exposure. I think we like to focus on taking hormones during menopause and think that is where it begins when actually it begins much sooner than we realize.

I tell my patients, unfortunately, cancer doesn't hurt or we would be able to detect it quickly every time. So does this mean don’t drink? No, just be healthy and don’t go out on a bender 4+ nights a week.

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