Alcohol again shown to conclusively increase breast cancer risk

“Our Cancer Prevention Recommendations – for preventing cancer in general – include limiting alcohol consumption (if consumed at all)”
American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), May 2017.

“Young women are now drinking at higher rates and in more harmful ways than their male counterparts”
100yrs data, 68 studies, 36 countries, 4 million people – Prof Slade et al.

“To help prevent breast cancer, one of the most important steps women can take is to not drink alcohol or reduce the amount of alcohol they drink”
Dr Rachel Thompson, Head of Research Interpretation, World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), May 2017.

Alcohol again shown to conclusively increase breast cancer risk

Researchers like myself have long known about the devastating impact that alcohol has on young women – particularly around breast cancer. Here we are in 2017, 20 years after the explosion of RTDs, and yet another definitive study comes out, this one from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), showing again just how much of a risk daily drinking is for women. Especially for young women.

“We have known about the link between alcohol and breast cancer as several studies have shown the association. This study clearly states that one drink per day will increase your risk. That is major news. When you think of the average risk of breast cancer – which is one in eight – and we’re adding on top of that, it starts to become larger. I think this gives us a reason to pause and ask how much do you drink, and where can I cut back a little bit.”
Dr. Susan Boolbol, Chief of the Breast Surgery Division Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, May 2017.

 What do we know so far?

  • Any amount of daily drinking increases breast cancer risk
  • Any amount of daily drinking increases cancer risk
  • NZ women binge-drinking has QUADRUPLED in 10 years
  • NZ women binge-drinking are drinking 4 TIMES more than is safe
  • Young women binge-drinking are now “the heaviest problem drinkers” in NZ
  • More older women are now drinking alcohol (and growing every year)
  • Female alcohol-related deaths have skyrocketed in the last 10 years
  • Cancer rates will rise 6x faster among women 2017-2037
  • WHO estimates up to 25% of all global cancers are attributable to alcohol alone

“Breast cancer risk increases at just one drink a day, on average. This suggests there is no level of alcohol use that is completely safe in terms of breast cancer. If a woman is drinking, it would be better if she kept it to a lower amount. It can be confusing with single studies when the findings get swept back and forth. With this comprehensive and up-to-date report the evidence is clear
Dr. Anne McTiernan, Cancer Prevention Researcher, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, May 2017.

Do we need any help increasing breast cancer rates?

No. Globally, breast cancer is the #1 cancer in women. More than 50,000 women a year are diagnosed with it. One in eight women worldwide receive a breast cancer diagnosis yet so many cases of breast cancer are preventable. The latest comprehensive report just backs up a compelling, massive body of information, all saying the same thing; alcohol intake causes cancer. The AICR/WCRF scientists examined all the available research worldwide on the impact of diet, weight and exercise on breast cancer. The report covered 119 international observational studies, including 32 large cohort studies, on 12 million women with more than 260,000 breast cancer cases.

“Alcohol is a known carcinogen [cancer-causer][/cancer-causer]. It’s good to look at where you are with diet and physical activity and look at places where you might improve and just start every day to take some simple steps to decrease your risk and improve your health. A little bit of change can make a real difference. Some other individual studies had suggested that risk only started with 2 drinks per day or more but this meta-analysis, where we combined results from many large cohort studies, was definitive. There are no guarantees when it comes to cancer but it’s empowering to know you can do something to lower your risk. If you drink alcohol, stick to a single drink or less”
Alice Bender, MS, RDN, Head of Nutrition Programs, American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), May 2017.

Jason’s final say

For us to empower our young women growing up to live long healthy lives AND to prevent CVD, cancers, liver diseases, early death, violence against, and abuse of our precious women, alcohol needs to be ‘de-normalised’ and moved back to a place where it is a rare treat rather than a daily occurrence.

“It has been seen in a lot of studies that being obese when you’re diagnosed with breast cancer is linked to a higher risk of cancer recurrence and dying from breast cancer in both pre- and postmenopausal women. Eating a diet that’s high in fruit and vegetables that keeps your weight in a good range, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol, those are all things that we know are good for general health. This report really strengthens that those may also be an important part of limiting your risk of breast cancer…”
Dr. Jennifer Ligibel, Breast Oncologist, Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School, May 2017.

“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. A number of studies have shown that alcohol can enhance the actions of estrogen in breast cancer cells. In exposed tissues, alcohol is converted into acetaldehyde, a chemical that can cause mutations in DNA, which can potentially lead to cancer”
Chin-Yo Lin, Cancer Researcher, University of Houston’s Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling, May 2017.

World Cancer Research Fund International/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Report: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Breast cancer. 2017. Available at Also Siegel, R.L, et al., Cancer statistics, 2017. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Breast data from SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2013, National Cancer Institute. The full report is here: with the AICR stating “The report is part of the Continuous Update Project (CUP), which monitors and analyzes research on cancer prevention from around the world and draws conclusions on how weight, diet and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing cancer. US CUP Panel Members include: Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey; Steven Clinton, MD, PhD, The Ohio State University; Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD, Harvard School of Public Health; Stephen Hursting, PhD, MPH, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.”



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