Page last updated:January 10, 2017
Alcohol and breast cancer in African-American women

A study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research looks at breast cancer and alcohol consumption among African American woment. Alcohol is thought to be a risk factor for breast cancer; however, most studies have been conducted in predominantly white populations. In order to identify whether alcohol raises risk for African- American women a large study that solely enrolled African-American women was carried out.

Melissa A. Troester, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina and colleagues enrolled 22,338 women from the African American Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk (AMBER) Consortium, which encompasses four large epidemiologic studies of breast cancer. Study participants reported their alcohol intake via a questionnaire, and researchers used logistic regression to estimate the association between alcohol consumption and cases of breast cancer.

Overall, black women drink less alcohol than white women, with a range of reasons from religious restrictions to health restrictions. In this study, 45% of the women were "never drinkers," and researchers found that the "never drinkers" were more likely to develop breast cancer than the light drinkers. Troester said that they did not identify the causes for increased risk in never drinkers, but previous studies finding similar elevated risk in never drinkers implicate the comorbidities, such as diabetes, that influenced them to avoid alcohol. A limitation of the study is that it included relatively few women who drank heavily, making those findings less statistically significant. However, the study's results are consistent with previous research indicating increased risk for the highest levels of alcohol consumption. The study showed that women who drank seven or more drinks (14g) per week showed an increased risk of almost all subtypes. Women who drank 14 or more alcoholic beverages per week were 33% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who consumed four or fewer drinks per week.

Source: Alcohol Intake and Breast Cancer Risk in African American Women from the AMBER Consortium. MA Troester et al. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, May 2017 Volume 26, Issue 5.

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