What is the Link Between Alcohol and Breast Cancer?

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  • Written By: Jeany Miller
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2018
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The relationship between alcohol and breast cancer may be explained by hormones and genetics. One or more drinks per day may substantially increase a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer because of estrogen exposure, which rises proportionately with alcohol consumption. Variations in specific genes and diminished biological functions may also account for an increased risk of breast cancer among women who drink. It has further been suggested that alcohol may play a role in recurring incidences of breast cancer as well.

Alcohol and breast cancer may be linked to each other in several different ways, one of which is with hormones. Excessive exposure to such hormones may be responsible for some breast cancer tumors. Doctors often label these particular tumors as estrogen-receptor and progesterone-receptor positive. One theory is that alcohol may interfere with the body’s metabolism of estrogen. In women who drink one or more alcoholic beverages every day, this may increase the risk for developing hormone-sensitive breast cancer.

Estrogen exposure has long been considered a breast cancer risk factor. Women who begin menstruating before the age of 12 or enter menopause after the age of 55, for example, may be at an increased risk for breast cancer. Alcohol and estrogen may be linked in how the body absorbs one and secretes the other.


Women may produce fewer stomach enzymes than men, which are required to process alcohol. Beverages may thus be absorbed throughout the female body in their purest form. Alcohol may meanwhile cause estrogen levels to increase, and those levels may be sustained with longer and more frequent bouts of alcohol consumption. This may expose a woman to prolonged levels of increased estrogen, which in turn may activate estrogen-sensitive breast cells.

Genes may also help to explain how alcohol and breast cancer are connected. Alcohol is metabolized differently by each person. Variants in two particular genes that aide with metabolic processes — ADH1B and ADH1C — may also increase a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer. As with the relationship to estrogen, increased alcohol consumption proportionately escalates a woman’s chances of getting cancer.

Alcohol consumption may influence other biological functions that could increase breast cancer risks for women. The liver, for example, works to rid the body of harmful toxins. Excessive alcohol, however, prevents the liver from optimally functioning. A woman who regularly consumes alcoholic beverages may overload her liver and thus accumulate carcinogens within her body.

Alcohol and breast cancer may also be linked in terms of the disease’s recurrence. Some patients previously diagnosed with breast cancer have had recurring episodes that may have been influenced by mild-to-moderate drinking. This suggests a cancer patient’s prognosis may be dependent upon lifestyle choices.

Post-menopausal women or those who are overweight appear to be the most susceptible to the effects of alcohol and breast cancer. While one drink per day may lead to an increased risk for the disease, three or more daily drinks appear to significantly multiply a woman’s likelihood of developing breast cancer. Beer, wine and liquor all seem to pose the same amount of danger to women, with one being as potentially harmful as another.



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Post 2

Living a healthy lifestyle and making sensible choices with our diet and exercise can make a difference not only for breast cancer but every aspect of our lives.

I did find it interesting that alcohol may play a part in some breast cancer recurrence. I think that a breast cancer diagnosis would be a big wake up call to look at your food and drink choices and your level of exercise. Making healthy choices can never hurt and if they can help prevent some types of cancers, it is good to know about it.

Post 1

It seems as if hormones and genetics play a big factor in several kinds of cancers - whether alcohol is involved or not. I also think that over indulgence in alcohol can be a risk factor for breast cancer and many other types of cancers.

I always try to practice everything in moderation. If you focus too much on what you can and can't have - you won't enjoy anything. Sometimes you feel like anything you eat or do causes cancer, so I just try to keep a balance.

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