| Alcohol, Hormones May
Increase Breast Cancer Risk
NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Previous research has suggested
that postmenopausal women who either drink alcohol or use hormone
replacement therapy (HRT) have a higher than average risk of breast
cancer, and new evidence suggests that the combination of both
could up the risk more than either alone.
Based on results from a group of
more than 44,000 women, the investigators discovered that those
who drank at least 1-1/2 drinks each day and used HRT for at least
5 years were almost twice as likely to develop breast cancer as
women who neither drank alcohol nor took HRT.
The authors also demonstrated that
women who either drank at least 1-1/2 alcoholic drinks each day
or took HRT for at least 5 years appeared to have a 30% increased
risk in breast cancer, relative to their teetotaler counterparts
who opted out of HRT.
Study author Dr. Wendy Y. Chen
of Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
in Boston, Massachusetts told Reuters Health that she realizes
that women who go through menopause have a lot of medical information
to sift through, especially lately. "There are a lot of women
who are now facing difficult decisions," she said.
However, when women are faced with
the decision of whether or not to take HRT, she said that she
hopes they also consider how drinking alcohol every day may affect
their breast cancer risk.
The decision is not an easy one,
Chen admitted; while her study suggests that alcohol can increase
the risk of breast cancer, a wealth of previous research indicates
that regular drinking can improve a woman's cardiovascular health.
To make sense of this confusion,
Chen pointed out that women who drank an average of less than
one drink each day--for example a couple of drinks per week--showed
no increased risk of breast cancer. There is no established minimum
amount of alcohol that women need to receive its heart healthy
benefits, Chen noted, so cutting consumption to less than a glass
each day could help the heart without sacrificing the breast.
Chen and her colleagues base their
findings on a group of 44,187 postmenopausal women who were followed
for 14 years.
Every two years, the women checked
in and indicated whether they were using HRT or had developed
breast cancer. At four points during the study, the researchers
queried the women about how much alcohol they drank. The researchers
published their findings in the November 19th issue of Annals
of Internal Medicine.
A total of 1,722 women developed
breast cancer, and the authors discovered that the risk of doing
so increased if the women either drank 1-1/2 servings of alcohol--wine,
beer or spirits--or took HRT, or did both.
In an interview with Reuters Health,
Chen explained that the current study did not investigate how
alcohol consumption or HRT could influence the risk of breast
cancer, but said that previous research has suggested that both
can up the risk by increasing levels of estrogen in the body.
However, Chen emphasized that the
current findings do not suggest that women need to abandon alcohol
all together. "I think it means you should limit it to less than
a glass and a half per day," she noted.
SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine
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