In the last week, I have had multiple female patients ask me about the recent study suggesting an association between alcohol and breast cancer. With the holiday season already in full swing and the alcohol flowing at numerous holiday parties, it would make sense that this recent study would bring about concern for the women in my clinic.
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at more than 100,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study, women who drank between three to six glasses of wine per week had a 15 percent increased risk of breast cancer.
The study also suggests that with each 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day, there is a 10 percent increase in risk of breast cancer and that the cumulative amount of alcohol consumed in adulthood is a significant predictor of overall risk.
Within the study, there did not seem to be a difference in the type of alcohol consumed, so overall consumption amount over a lifetime seemed most important.
The hypothesis of why this linkage is important stems from alcohol’s potential effects on estrogen levels. It remains to be seen whether women who stop drinking alcohol later in life then reap the benefit of decreased breast cancer risk. Further studies will be needed to elucidate some of the remaining questions we have regarding study results such as this.
Because prior studies suggest potential cardiovascular benefits with one glass of red wine per night, women are now left with the question of should they or should they not drink alcohol.
My recommendation is to keep in mind your family history and your personal health history and judge based on that.
I also recommend that you keep in mind that this study looks at overall cumulative impact of a life-time of alcohol consumption. So, the rare glass of wine should not be a problem…but if you are consistently having a glass of wine every night, then you should have a discussion with your physician about your risks.
The reason that physicians emphasize the need to keep alcohol intake to less than three glasses per week is because it is easier for patients to remember this than to try to remember to keep overall consumption down to a minimum in a lifetime. By aiming for less than three drinks per week, it will be easier for patients to make sure that they are keeping their alcohol intake to a minimum.
So, when you are at your holiday parties this season, consider keeping your alcohol intake to just a glass per party and this issue may no longer have to be an issue in your mind…so you can free up your mind for more pressing matters like how to entertain your family members without feeling stressed.
Dr. Julie T. Chen, M.D. an integrative medicine physician who is board-certified in internal medicine and is also fellowship-trained and board-certified in integrative medicine. She has her own medical practice in San Jose, CA, is the medical director of corporation wellness at several Silicon Valley-based corporations, is on several medical expert panels of websites as well as non-profit organizations, is a recurring monthly columnist for several national magazines, and has been featured in radio, TV, newspaper, and magazine interviews. She incorporates many types of healing modalities into her practice including, but is not limited to, medical acupuncture, Chinese scalp acupuncture, clinical hypnotherapy, strain-counterstrain osteopathic manipulations, and biofeedback. To learn more about Dr. Julie, you can check out her website at www.makinghealthyez.com