Study: alcohol impacts breast cancer recurrence

December 10, 2009 5:49:20 PM PST
A new study finds that drinking alcohol can increase breast cancer recurrence. The research found that among breast cancer survivors, those who drank were 30 percent more likely to have a recurrence than those who didn't drink at all.

Alcohol may be good for the heart, but apparently bad for the breast.

"Women who consumed moderate to heavy levels of alcohol, have an increase risk of breast cancer recurrence and also death from breast cancer," said Dr. Bette Caan.

Dr. Caan is the senior author of that study done by Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland. The study defines moderate is at least is at least three to four drinks a week.

Nearly 1,900 breast cancer survivors were followed for a period of eight years. They recorded how much alcohol they consumed and were told to reveal any health changes.

Wine was by far the most popular choice and Dr. Caan says alcohol is known to affect estrogen levels.

"These are all things that are known to promote tumor growth," she said.

Dr. Kevin Knoph is a medical oncologist. He says he's not ready to tell his patients to stop consuming alcohol.

"There are probably five or six studies looking at what increases the risks for women to have a recurrence after she has had breast cancer, and not all of them have shown a positive relationship between alcohol," said Dr. Knoph.

The study also found the recurrence was greater among post-menopausal and overweight or obese women.

Mary Ann Gasparovic is a breast cancer survivor. She says it's a wakeup call.

"I'm excited about first of all, any and all research that is done for breast cancer survivors because it just helps us make informed decisions," she said.

The study recommends those who have had breast cancer should limit their consumption of alcohol to less than three drinks a week.


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