Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug on the planet, and women face a significant risk of developing breast cancer from overconsumption of alcohol. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women all over the world*, and a new study out of Australia confirms the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk.
The Link Between Alcohol And Breast Cancer
Researchers from Flinders University in Australia recently reported that breast cancer accounts for more than 13% of all new cancer diagnoses in Australia and more than 28% of all new cancer diagnoses in women**. One of the most troubling findings from the studies done to reach this conclusion is the fact that many women do not understand the severity of the risk posed by alcohol consumption and how alcohol can increase the risk of developing breast cancer and other serious health conditions. Among women ages 45 to 64, alcohol consumption rates appear to be rising in tandem with alcohol consumption rates.
Understanding The Risks
Research consistently reports strong links between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, and women who consume three alcoholic drinks per week face a 15% increase in breast cancer risk. Cancer researchers also report that for every drink beyond three per week increases this risk by an additional 10%***. Young girls between the ages of 9 and 15 also face a significantly higher risk of developing benign breast lumps if they consume three to five alcoholic drinks per week. Drinking alcohol can also increase the risk of breast cancer returning in women who received early-stage breast cancer diagnoses.
Drinking alcohol increase estrogen levels in the body. This inherently means that alcohol increases the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers, like breast cancer. Although some medical research indicates that one alcoholic drink per day can actually help prevent some medical problems like heart disease, this comes with a tradeoff of increasing the risk of developing other health problems. Remember, this applies to all forms of alcohol. It does not matter if you prefer beer, wine, or hard liquor; any type of alcohol consumption will invariably increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Alcohol consumption also causes other medical issues that can make it harder for your body to fight cancer. For example, alcohol is hard on the liver, and people who consume alcohol face a greater risk of developing liver diseases. Alcohol can also interrupt brain function, immune system effectiveness, and digestive functions. Ultimately, drinking causes countless health problems, and any suggested health benefits of daily drinking fall very short of offsetting the potential damage it can cause.
Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk
Some women are naturally predisposed to developing breast cancer, but any woman can reduce her risk by limiting alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a deeply ingrained part of social life in the United States, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere in the world, but that does not mean you must make it a part of your social life.
Taking a few proactive steps to reduce your alcohol consumption can dramatically lower your risk of developing breast cancer or prevent breast cancer from returning after an early-stage diagnosis and treatment.
- Proactively limit your alcohol intake. You do not have to give up drinking entirely, but limiting yourself to one or two drinks per week would minimize the increased risk of breast cancer alcohol consumption presents.
- Abstain from alcohol entirely. While some claim that a glass of red wine each day can improve blood pressure and bolster heart function, there really is no medical benefit to consuming alcohol. Abstaining entirely is the best way to limit your risk of breast cancer, but social pressures can make this difficult for many women.
- If you know that certain situations encourage you to drink, try to mix up your routine and find new ways to enjoy your leisure time without drinking. Consider reaching out to make new friends or explore a new hobby you have always wanted to try.
- Eat a balanced diet. Alcohol can wreak havoc on the body, and this happens more acutely in those with poor dietary habits.
- Seek substance abuse treatment if you think you have developed a drinking problem. Accepting the fact that you need help can be an incredible challenge, but the sooner you address a drinking problem and receive treatment, the sooner you can start making healthier life choices and minimizing your risk of breast cancer and other medical complications.
- Exercise daily. Even a few minutes of moderate exercise each day can improve your overall health and help prevent different types of cancer.
These are just a few steps you can take to limit the risk of alcohol consumption leading to major medical problems like breast cancer.
Finding Alcohol Abuse Treatment
Due to alcohol’s place in society, many people may find it very difficult to admit to a drinking problem. High-functioning alcoholism is incredibly common today, and this type of alcoholism describes a person who seemingly has his or her life in order while maintaining an alcohol abuse disorder. Eventually, this type of lifestyle will not last, and the individual will need to make significant changes before alcoholism consumes his or her life entirely. Admitting the need for treatment is the first step toward recovery, and the rehab experience can be incredibly beneficial in more ways than just helping you quit drinking. The skills and coping techniques learned in rehab can apply to other areas of life, helping a person cultivate new friendships and healthier habits that contribute to a healthier, safer lifestyle.
The added benefit of seeking alcohol addiction treatment is that quitting drinking will lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about how your alcohol consumption habits could be negatively impacting your health, and do not be afraid of reaching out to ask for help on the road to recovery.
Founder and Medical Director of ARIZONA GYNECOLOGY CONSULTANTS
Dr. Kelly Roy is a specialist in surgical gynecology and advanced laparoscopy (and hysteroscopy). She is a long-time resident of Arizona and obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering at Arizona State University before finishing her Doctorate of Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1997.
Dr. Roy completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the then “Banner Good Samaritan Hospital” (now Banner University Medical Center), in Phoenix Arizona in 2001.
Well known for her teaching and surgical ability, she is on the faculty at the residency program at both Banner University Medical Center and Saint Joseph’s Hospital in central Phoenix and is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix Campus. Dr. Roy has taught advanced surgical techniques to medical students, residents, fellows and colleagues for over 15 years.
Dr. Roy is also a consultant to the medical device industry and has participated in the design and clinical testing of many instruments and surgical devices available on the world-wide market today.