The Hard Line on Alcohol

When talking about breast cancer and alcohol, we must talk about habitual drinking.  The occasional glass of wine here and there does not have any impact on cancer risk.  However, drinking alcohol every day or every weekend as a habit, even in moderation, does increase the risk for various types of cancers, including breast cancer.  Here are the most common questions I am asked regarding alcohol, and their answers.

What is a serving of alcohol?

One 12-ounce beer, 1.5 ounces of liquor or 5-oz wine

What is considered “moderate” drinking?

One serving per day for women and two servings per day for men

No, you cannot drink seven drinks in one night and considerate it moderation because that averages out to one per day.

Does alcohol increase my risk for breast cancer?

Yes.  Recent studies have shown that compared to non-drinkers, those who consume alcohol, even in moderation, are at increased risk for breast cancer by about 12% per serving.  The more women drink, the greater the chance of developing breast cancer, particularly estrogen-related breast cancers.  Alcohol increases estrogen in women’s bodies, which is thought to be part of the reason why alcohol increases cancer risk.

Although the research isn’t as clear in men, there seems to be a similar relation between alcohol and prostate cancer.

What about wine being good for my heart?

Your decision to drink alcohol regularly should take in to consideration red wine’s antioxidant content and its potential benefit to heart health, and the risk of alcohol on breast health.  Keep in mind that any potential benefit to alcohol is from alcohol consumed in moderation, which is less than 1 serving per day for women and less than 2 servings per day for men.

Drinking more than 1-2 servings per day is absolutely linked to problems, such as gastrointestinal and prostate cancers, increased blood pressure, the increased risk for liver disease and osteoporosis and pancreatitis. Plus drinking alcohol excessively is the cause of motor vehicle accidents and deaths, and contributes to psychological and social problems.  There are enough risks associated with drinking alcohol that you shouldn’t drink solely to improve heart health.

The bottom line:

If you choose to drink alcohol habitually, do so in moderation, but don’t do it to protect your heart.  Realize that any amount of alcohol consumption comes with negative health effects and the more you drink, the worse it is for you.  If you feel at risk for breast cancer or want to do everything you can to prevent it, don’t drink alcohol at all.

Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition or health advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this website.

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