Alcohol Linked to Increased Risk of Developing Breast Cancer

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By: Kelsey Ryan, ASAC Prevention Intern

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, there is an increased emphasis put on how to prevent or decrease ones likelihood of getting the disease. There are all sorts of ideas out there – special diets, “cleansing” drinks, exercises, etc. But one way to decrease the risk that is often overlooked is alcohol consumption.

Since May 2000, alcohol has been listed as a known human carcinogen (a substance that is known to cause or increase risk of cancer) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the American Cancer Society there are several cancers associated with alcohol consumption including, mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast cancer.

Some of the reasons that alcohol has such an impact on the human body and cancer causing cells is because its impact on body tissue, vitamin levels, estrogen and other hormones found naturally in the human body. Alcohol also has an impact on body weight and is also a key factor in helping harmful chemicals be absorbed by the human body.

According to the National Cancer Institute women who drink more than three drinks per day have a 1.5 times greater risk of developing Breast Cancer at some point in their lifetime when compared to non-drinkers. This is thought to be due partly to alcohols impact on estrogen levels in women. Estrogen is a hormone important for the growth and development of breasts in women.

The linkage between alcohol consumption and breast cancer refers to excessive alcohol consumption, or binge drinking. Binge drinking, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), is classified as men consuming 5 or more drinks and women consuming 4 or more drinking in a 2 hour period of time.

Binge drinking and health risks associated with binge drinking should be discussed not only in October, but throughout the fiscal year. By simply being educated on the topic of binge drinking and its link to breast cancer may help several people decrease their risk of developing breast cancer later in life.