MAY 25, 2017 11:43 AM PDT

Daily Sips of Wine Increases Breast Cancer Risks

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Seemingly innocent sips of wine on the daily may be increasing a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, reports a new study from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund.

This year, an estimated 246,660 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer, which currently ranks as one of the most common causes of cancer deaths in American women. The disease risk is influenced by environmental factors, including modifiable behaviors such as alcohol consumption. Studies have established a positive correlation between the two factors, showing that increased alcohol intake leads to increased risks for breast cancers. Alcohol consumption is also associated with increased recurrence in postmenopausal women and those with early stage breast cancer.

But the exact magnitude of the risk posed by daily drinking and breast cancer development was not studied, until now. The current study analyzed data from 119 studies, which combined to a total of 12 million women and over 260,000 breast cancer cases. They found that consuming just 10 grams of alcohol a day - the equivalent to a small glass of wine or an 8-ounce beer - increases the risk of breast cancer by 5 percent and 9 percent in premenopausal and postmenopausal women, respectively.

"I was most surprised by the alcohol result, that risk increases at just one drink a day, on average," said Dr. Anne McTiernan, the study’s lead author. "The increase with one drink a day was small ... but the risk goes up from there. So that's why AICR recommends no more than one alcohol drink a day for women to reduce risk for cancer."

What’s the mechanism behind alcohol and breast cancer? Researchers suspect pathways in alcohol metabolism could induce DNA damages, leading to cancer. "In exposed tissues, alcohol is converted into acetaldehyde, a chemical that can cause mutations in DNA, which can potentially lead to cancer," said Chin-Yo Lin, a cancer researcher at the University of Houston’s Center for Nuclear Receptors and Signaling, who was not involved with the study.

Alcohol is also implicated in dysregulating the female sex hormone estrogen. "Alcohol consumption is also associated with elevated levels of the female sex hormone estrogen. Excessive cumulative exposure to estrogen is a major risk factor in breast cancer," said Lin. "A number of studies have shown that alcohol can enhance the actions of estrogen in breast cancer cells."

And just last year, Lin and his team showed that alcohol alters the expression of the cancer-driving gene BRAF, which then increases the overall risks for breast cancer in women.

Taken together, it seems alcohol is no friend to health. But things are rarely so straightforward, and alcohol’s story isn’t all bad. For instance, light consumption of the spirit could protect against heart disease. Furthermore, breast cancer development is quite complex and governed by many other immutable factors, like age, sex, and genetic predisposition.  Still, the new study results underscore just how easily lifestyle choices can directly influence our health risks, and the awareness of which could promote healthier behavioral changes.

Additional source: CNN

Image credit: pixabay.com

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 01, 2018
Health & Medicine
JUN 01, 2018
Research Shows The Cause of Childhood Leukemia
Babies and young children need to be kept safe by the adults in their lives, however keeping them in a germ-free environment might not be the best idea. Ch...
AUG 21, 2018
Cancer
AUG 21, 2018
'Zombie' gene returns to life and kills cancer in elephants
Researchers have discovered a gene that can protect elephants from cancer. An estimated 17 percent of humans worldwide die from cancer, but less than five ...
SEP 02, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
SEP 02, 2018
Cancer Cell Lines can Evolve in the Lab
New research shows that scientists have to take steps to verify the identity of the cell lines they grow....
SEP 04, 2018
Cancer
SEP 04, 2018
Glyphosate "herbicides" as a carcinogen
You may have heard of glyphosate as it is a chemical that is approved to be used in herbicides. But did you know that it could lead to cancer!!...
SEP 20, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 20, 2018
Liquid Phase Separation may Play a Role in Cancer
Not all liquids mix, like oil and water; the phenomenon is called liquid-liquid phase separation. We're learning more about its role in cells....
OCT 03, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 03, 2018
Single Cell Modified in CAR T Therapy Causes Deadly Relapse
One cell meant a very different outcome for a patient that was the recipient of a cutting-edge cancer therapy....
Loading Comments...