School-Age Drinking Increases Breast Cancer Risk

Young females drinking alcohol adolescents college

Sobering (ahem) fact: The more alcohol consumed before motherhood, the greater the future risk of breast cancer. This is suggested by new research from Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis, USA). While previous studies looked at risk and alcohol consumption later in life ( or on the effect of adolescent drinking on non-cancerous breast diseases), the current study links breast cancer risk to drinking between early adolescence and first full-term pregnancy. The findings are based on the a review of the health histories of 91,005 mothers enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II from 1989 to 2009.

Bottom line: The researchers found that if a female averages a drink per day between her first period and her first full-term pregnancy, she potentially  increases her risk of breast cancer. For every bottle of beer, glass of wine, or shot of liquor consumed daily, a young woman increases her risk of proliferative benign breast disease by 15%. While such lesions are not cancer, their presence can increase the breast cancer risk by 5-fold.

My take: We should educate our daughters about the link between drinking and the risk of breast cancer. It doesn’t mean that they have to eliminate all drinking (say, in college), just that reducing it to less than one drink per day on average may reduce their lifetime risk of breast cancer. Breast cells may be especially susceptible to cancer-causing substances as they undergo rapid proliferation during adolescence.

And, don’t forget the exercise, as it seems to reduce the risk of cancer for everyone!

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minuteable now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: Journal of the National Cancer Institute (online edition) 28 August 2013.

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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