Alcohol is listed on the National Cancer Institute’s website as a carcinogen for the development of breast cancer. Your risk of developing breast cancer is directly related to your level of consumption.
The positive press for alcohol and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease has made this practice socially acceptable. The cardiac benefits are seen in women who drink one alcoholic beverage per day or in men two alcoholic beverages per day. The volume of alcohol consumed is directly related to breast cancer risk.
- 6 % increased risk with ½ a glass of wine per day
- 21% increased risk with 1-2 glasses of wine per day
- 37% increased risk with 3 or more glasses of wine per day
Alcohol is a source of empty calories that can lead to excess fat. This can increase your risk of breast cancer as fat is the body’s factory for the production of estrogen and 70% of breast cancers in post-menopausal women are estrogen positive.
Research studying the interplay between alcohol and estrogen has focused on several genes that code for the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which is involved in alcohol metabolism. ADH initiates the breakdown of alcohol into acetaldehyde, ethanol’s first metabolite, which has been seen to be carcinogenic.
The alcohol-estrogen link and the role of acetaldehyde can both be linked to alcohol-induced oxidative damage and the disruption of folic acid pathways. While we know several ways in which alcohol affects breast cancer risk, there are still some unknowns.