Effects of Alcohol on Breast Cancer

A new study in the Journal of the Amercian Medical Association (JAMA) reports an increased risk of breast cancer from moderate alcohol consumption. (1) Since multiple studies have linked alcohol consumption with the risk of breast cancer, this study was designed to evaluate the association of breast cancer with alcohol consumption during adult life, including quantity, frequency, and age at consumption. Over 100 000 women participated in the Nurses’ Health Study between 1980 and 2008, during which time 7690 cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed. Alcohol consumption of as low as 3 to 6 glasses of wine per week was associated with a 15% increased risk of breast cancer. For women who had at least 2 drinks per day, the risk was 51% higher. In contrast, there was no difference in breast cancer risk for women who consumed less than three glasses of wine per week and those who did not drink alcohol at all. There was no difference in terms of type of alcohol consumed (beer, wine or liquor). A key component was how much alcohol the women consistently consumed over time.

Although the exact mechanism for the association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer is not known, one probable explanation involves alcohol’s effects on circulating estrogen levels. Other studies have also found a stronger correlation with the development of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers.

In another study, moderate alcohol consumption including red wine has been shown to have health benefits, such as protection against heart disease.(2) Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, can mimic the effects of consuming a very low calorie diet, which may prolong longevity. The effects on metabolism included lowering the metabolic rate, cutting the accumulation of fat in the liver, reducing blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides and inflammation and boosting the efficiency of muscles. The mechanism may involve an increase in proteins called sertuins which could produce the beneficial effects. In women, postmenopausal obesity has been correlated with an increased risk of breast cancer, possibly via elevated levels of circulating estrogens.(3)

Prior to undergoing plastic surgery on the breasts, whether breast augmentation, breast lift or breast reduction, patients should be aware of associated risk factors for breast cancer, such as noted in the study above. Pre-operative evaluation with breast exam and imaging studies may be performed prior to surgery. Optimizing your health is advisable before surgery. Dr. Hutchinson will be happy to discuss all aspects of your breast plastic surgery with you and address any concerns you may have. Please contact us or call us at (212) 452-1400 or (201) 871-0600 to schedule your consultation.

1. JAMA.2011;306(17):1884-1890.  doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1590

2. Cell Metabolism, Volume 14, Issue 5, 612-622, 2 November 2011

3. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (1995) 87(17): 1297-1302. doi: 10.1093/jnci/87.17.1297

Posted in: Breast Health, Medical News

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