When Boozing Goes ‘Bust’

Women, be aware of the cocktail-cancer connection

That daily glass of wine with dinner is good for you, right? And if a little is good for you — what about a lot?

We know that binge drinking is bad for your health, not to mention your waistline. But even a glass of wine a day can raise your breast cancer risk, dramatically.

How dramatically? It can make you four times as likely to develop breast cancer than teetotalers.

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Those are the results of recent research conducted by a group of universities in Spain, which have been following a group of more than 300,000 European women for 11 years.

“Women with high-risk factors for breast cancer should avoid alcohol completely.”

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Both hormone receptor negative and hormone receptor positive cancers were encouraged by alcohol intake. Past studies linked alcohol consumption to hormone-receptor-positive cancers — and only suggested a 7 percent to 12 percent increase in risk for each additional drink consumed.

So this study is double trouble. It shows alcohol to be an equal-opportunity risk factor regardless of the hormonal aspect of cancer, and showing greatly increased risk.

If you already have other high-risk factors for breast cancer, this multiplication factor of alcohol’s affect could be very scary indeed.

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Rhone Levin, a registered dietitian nutritionist and professional and clinical outreach coordinator at Savor Health, has provided nutrition counseling to cancer patients and survivors for 17 years. She also offers nutritional instruction on cancer prevention. The results of this study were not a surprise to her.

“There has been a definitive link between excessive alcohol consumption and cancer for years,” Levin told LifeZette.

But what Levin found particularly disturbing was the multiplied risk factor — and the older demographic.

“The post-menopausal women in the study showed the greatest increase in risk in correlation to the number of years they had been consuming alcohol,” she said.

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The reason for the seemingly greater cancer risk for women who drink alcohol has not yet been identified. One of the theories, according to Levin, is that women process alcohol slower than men, so the alcohol stays in their bodies longer.

Dr. Susan Kolb, founder of Avatar Cancer Center in Atlanta, Georgia, sees the connection this way: “Excessive alcohol use leads to liver toxicity. Liver toxicity leads to an inability to detox conjugate estrogens, estrogens predisposed to breast cancer.”

“Women with high-risk factors for breast cancer should avoid alcohol completely,” Levin said., and that would include women who are breast cancer survivors.

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LifeZette spoke with breast cancer survivor Karen Alleyne-Means from West Palm Beach, Florida, about this new study showing a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer, and she was shocked.

Cancer free for seven years, she has worked in pharmaceutical sales and been active in breast cancer awareness campaigns, yet had never heard of any correlation between alcohol consumption and breast cancer.

“This information should be shared in the marketplace,” she insisted. “Women need to know these things, so we can take charge of our own health.”

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Toni Bieser, an accountant from Minnesota, has been cancer free for four years following the removal of a large cancerous mass from her breast at the age of 33. She told LifeZette her doctors had told her that alcohol consumption could increase her risk for recurrence, but it wasn’t a big concern for her.

“I only have a drink once or twice a month,” Bieser said.

She has made other lifestyle changes to protect her health and that of her family since her experience with cancer.

“I pay more attention to what we put into our bodies or put on our skin, like makeup and lotions with ingredients I can’t pronounce,” she said.

If any of this worries you, choose a non-alcoholic beverage when you’re out with friends. Save glasses of wine for special occasions. There are plenty of ways you can make adjustments to your lifestyle that will decrease or eliminate this multiplier of cancer risk factors.

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