The ‘Alcohol-Breast Cancer’ link is sadly misreported by the Media

Poor media reporting insinuates “Red wine may reduce breast cancer risk in women”

A small, one-month-long, 36 women study was done by Chrisandra Shufelt, MD, assistant director of the Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, and colleagues. The study was reported by the media in a way that suggested red wine somehow prevented cancer. The study did not find this. It found that red wine caused less body damage than white wine. It did not find a lower risk for breast cancer associated with drinking red wine. There was nothing proven at all but what did the headlines say in reporting this inconclusive research?

The Los Angeles Times headline was “Red wine prevents breast cancer? I’ll drink to that”.

The KPCC headline was “Drinking red wine may reduce breast cancer risk”.

The Medical Express headline was “Moderate drinking may help cut women’s breast cancer risk”.

The CBS New York headline was “New Study Shows Red Wine May Reduce Cancer Risk in Women”.

And the worst headline of all? The Boomer Health & Lifestyle headline of “Breast Cancer Risk Reduced by Drinking Red Wine”.

Media manipulation

We know from long-term studies on millions of people – especially women – that all alcohol intake increases breast cancer risk. Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) lists alcohol as a ‘Class One Carcinogen’. So how can they get away with this kind of reporting? This is disgraceful and makes you very suspicious of who is behind the pushing of this kind of headline. Who will benefit from people skimming a headline that says “Red wine lowers breast cancer”? Alcohol companies perhaps?

Will people actually read the article and then discover that what the study found was nothing of the sort?

Will people understand that nowhere was there solid evidence that “red wine lowers breast cancer risk?”

Will they understand that the tiny, unproven, statistically unreliable, one-month study on only 36 women was not conclusive in any way at all?

Will they then consider the ‘Million Women Study’ (done on 1.2 million women over many years) found conclusively and I quote, that “No amount of alcohol is safe for cancer risk”

Or will they read the KPCC sound bite that said “Red wine now has another potential health benefit: preventing breast cancer”?

And will they read The Boomer Health & Lifestyle article that said “Alcohol consumption is usually linked with higher breast cancer risk, but new research suggests that drinking red wine actually has the opposite effect”?

Headlines create perceptions
Most of us now are time-poor. We read so much less and we do not investigate the detail in articles or the research and studies they cite. There is, sadly, a huge opportunity for misrepresentation of the truth (or a very biased fabrication of the facts, as in this case). If you actually read the study and the comments then nothing showed that red wine decreases breast cancer risk.


The headlines run by various news outlets across the world tried to twist this small non-conclusive study into some pro-alcohol propaganda.

Breast cancer is growing as alcohol sales grow

It is tragic that many women will read this headline and then subconsciously have it as an excuse to either continue to drink or to drink even more. If you delved into the article then there were even statements buried away in the fine print saying “It’s not the alcohol in red wine that appears to conjure such magic. It’s the phytochemicals, which also are found in grapes, grape juice and grape seed extract”. 

But that did not lead to “Fruits and vegetables lower breast cancer risk” headlines all over the world did it?

“Alcohol has had a lot of good publicity. People may not realize the risk they’re taking when they have a few drinks. Any alcohol consumption will raise your breast cancer risk”. 
Tim Key, of the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit at Oxford.

“The risk of cancer was similar in women who drank wine exclusively and in women who drank a mixture of alcoholic drinks… Breast cancer risk has long been known to be higher in drinkers…”
Naomi Allen, PhD, Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

“We observed cancer increases with each 10g daily drink”
Dr Wendy Y. Chen, MD, Harvard.

“Alcohol is one of the most carcinogenic products in common use”
Professor Olver.

The more you drink, the higher your risk for breast cancer

The research linking alcohol intake and breast cancer risk is global, comprehensive, independently validated, peer-reviewed, and has a scientific consensus around it. If you are concerned about breast cancer risk for yourself, then the safest relationship you can have with alcohol, is to not drink at all. The references below cover nearly two million women studied in countries all over the world, for a period of more than 30 years. They all confirm the same thing: all types of alcohol cause cancer.

What is reported is not the whole story
The CBS New York report said “new research shows that drinking red wine in moderation may actually help lower a woman’s chances of the disease…” however what the researcher ACTUALLY said was “it may actually be a change for risk factors for breast cancer”, meaning that RED WINE MAY BE LESS HARMFUL THAN WHITE WINE BUT COULD STILL BE VERY HARMFUL. This is like saying that knife wounds to the heart are now not dangerous because gunshot wounds to the heart kill you faster.

How can 36 women disprove the ONE MILLION WOMEN Study?
The CBS New York report went on to say “These new findings challenge much of the current research on alcohol and breast cancer”. How can they seriously say this one short 36-women study, which DOES NOT say that red wine is good for cancer protection, can “challenge much of the current research…?” This is irresponsible alcohol-promoting propaganda at its worst. It is making a headline and a pro-alcohol article out of research that says nothing of the sort. This reminds me of how cigarette companies used to use doctors to front their advertising campaigns and then put out bogus studies about how cigarette smoking was “good for the throat” when it was the absolute opposite.

Companies love sustaining controversy to grow health cynicism
T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., former Senior Science Advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research, Director of the Cornell-China-Oxford Project on Nutrition, Health and Environment 1983-1990, and author of the comprehensive nutrition study; The China Study, summed it up very well indeed when he said “Sustaining controversy as a means of discrediting findings that cause economic or social discomfort is one of the greatest sins in science”. Telling people that alcohol is a class one carcinogen will cause social discomfort no doubt. However, it is the truth. Here is a list of studies showing that alcohol directly causes a higher cancer risk.

Experts all agree that alcohol causes cancer
You cannot get a cancer cell occurring unless DNA is altered. When you drink, the acetaldehyde is corrupting the DNA of life and puts you on the road to cancer. One of most common genetic defects in man is our inability to counteract the toxicity of alcohol”
Dr Nick Sheron from the liver unit in Southampton General Hospital.

“The alcohol association has been known for many years and is one of the modifiable risk factors for breast cancer”
Karin Michels, ScD, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health.

“There is now evidence showing that any amount of drinking increases breast cancer”
Dr James Garbutt, MD, University of North Carolina

The more you drink, the higher your risk for breast cancer

The research linking alcohol intake and breast cancer risk is global, comprehensive, independently validated, peer-reviewed, and has a scientific consensus around it. If you are concerned about breast cancer risk for yourself, then the safest relationship you can have with alcohol, is to not drink at all. The references below cover nearly two million women studied in countries all over the world, for a period of more than 30 years. They all confirm the same thing: all types of alcohol cause cancer.

Written by Jason Shon Bennett from ExceptionalHealth®.  


  • Arthur Klatsky of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Oakland, California analysed the Nurses’ Health Study and drinking habits of 70,033 women of various races between 1978 and 1985, then published the findings in The New England Journal of Medicine, 1987. They found women who consumed three to nine drinks each week “increased their risk of getting breast cancer by 30%, and the more they drank, the greater the threat”. Interestingly, “researchers found no difference in breast cancer risk regardless of wine, beer, or liquor”. 
  • Naomi Allen, PhD, from the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, in United Kingdom, and colleagues, found that “One drink of alcohol daily increased breast cancer risk 12% and just 10 grams of alcohol daily was associated with a 24% increased risk for liver cancer”. This analysis was from the renowned Million Women Study on 1,280,296 middle-aged women in the UK, as published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on February 24, 2009.
    Study by Shumin M. Zhang and colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA and colleagues, found that “women who drank greater than 30 grams per day of alcohol were 32% and 43% more likely to be diagnosed with total breast cancer and invasive breast cancer, respectively, compared with non-drinkers”. Study based on data from the 38,454-participant Women’s Health Study (United States, 1992−2004), and was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, 2006.
  • Study by Susan M. Gapstur and colleagues of University of Minnesota School of Public Health, as published in American Journal of Epidemiology, 1992, found that “those drinking 15 or more grams per day were at a 46% higher risk for breast cancer”. This rigorous research was based on data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study, which enrolled 41,837 postmenopausal women aged 55 to 69 years. As re-reported by David Liu, PHD with editing by Stacey Sexton on Sunday January 8, 2012.
  • “The more alcohol girls consume; the more likely they were to develop benign breast disease – which raises breast cancer risk”, from researchers at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Meta-analysis from 13 international studies carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford, funded by Cancer Research UK, as published in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Cancer, 2011. 
  • “Alcohol consumption causes more than 5,000 cases of cancer in Australia each year” according to a Cancer Council analysis study as published in The Medical Journal of Australia, on May 1st, 2011. The researchers found 5% of all Australian cancers were caused by long-term alcohol consumption. 
  • Study by Miriam Garland and colleagues of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, on 116,671 women aged 25 to 42, as published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 1999, found that “drinking more than 20 grams per day or 10 drinks per week in the previous year was associated with 23% increased risk for breast cancer”.
  • Meta-analysis of six worldwide studies on more than 320,000 women, as published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998, by Harvard scientists, determined that “one drink a day led to a 10% increase in breast cancer risk and 2-5 daily drinks raised the risk to 40%”.

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