Page last updated: Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Alcohol increases breast cancer growth
Research carried out on mice indicate that the consumption of two alcoholic drinks a day may double the growth rate of existing breast cancer tumors, say researchers from the University of Mississippi, USA, in a presentation made to the American Physiology Society.

The researchers worked on two groups of mice, half were given the equivalent of two alcoholic drinks each day, while the other half received no alcoholic drinks. Breast cancer cells were injected into all the mice. A month later it was found that the mice which had consumed alcohol had tumors weighing 1.4 kilograms (average), about twice as heavy as the mice which did not consume any alcohol.

The scientists also found that alcohol caused the blood vessels in the cancer to grow faster. Moderate alcohol intake also caused a 1.28-fold increase in tumor microvessel density compared with no alcohol intake.

A significant increase in vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels in the tumors of mice consuming alcohol were found compared to the tumors of control mice.

“VEGF can promote the formation of new blood vessels,” Gu said. “This suggests that alcohol can induce tumor angiogenesis.”

Jian-Wei Gu, team leader, explained that we produce lots of cancer cells each day, but they rarely grow. However, if the cells establish blood vessels, the tumor grows and thrives (angiogenesis).

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