Kaiser Permanente study finds alcohol amount, not type related to breast cancer
One of the largest individual studies of the effects of alcohol on the risk of breast cancer shows that it makes no difference whether a woman drinks wine, beer or spirits, it is the alcohol itself and the quantity consumed that increases breast cancer risk
‘Population studies have consistently linked drinking alcohol to an increased risk of female breast cancer, but until now there has been little data, most of it conflicting, about an independent role played by the choice of beverage type,’ said Klatsky, who presented these findings on September 27th at the European Cancer Conference (ECCO 14) in Barcelona, Spain.
Klatsky and colleagues studied the drinking habits of 70,033 multi-ethnic women who had supplied information during health examinations between 1978-1985. By 2004, 2,829 of these women were diagnosed with breast cancer. In one analysis, researchers compared the role of total alcohol intake among women who favoured one type of drink over another with women who had no clear preference. In another analysis, researchers looked at the possible independent role of frequency of drinking each beverage type. Finally, they examined the role of total alcohol intake, comparing it with women who drank less than one alcoholic drink a day.
The study found there was no difference between wine, beer or spirits in the risk of developing breast cancer. Even when wine was divided into red and white, there was no difference. However, when researchers looked at the relationship between breast cancer risk and total alcohol intake, they found that women who drank between one and two alcoholic drinks per day increased their risk of breast cancer by 10% compared with light drinkers who drank less than one drink a day. The risk of breast cancer increased by 30% in women who drank more than three drinks a day.
Results were similar when researchers looked at groups stratified by age and ethnicity. ‘Statistical analyses limited to strata of wine preferrers, beer preferrers, spirits preferrers or non-preferrers each showed that heavier drinking compared to light drinking was related to breast cancer risk in each group. This strongly confirms the relation of ethyl alcohol to increased risk,’ stated Klatsky.
‘A 30% increased risk is not trivial. To put it into context, it is not much different from the increased risk associated with women taking estrogenic hormones. Although breast cancer incidence varies between populations and only a small proportion of women are heavy drinkers’, Dr Klatsky said.
Other studies, including research from the same authors, show that light-moderate alcohol drinking can protect against heart attacks, but Klatsky said that different mechanisms were probably at work.
Source: European Cancer Conference. Date:, September 28, 2007