Breast cancer linked to alcohol use

30 August 2013 11:05

Young women who regularly consume alcohol before motherhood risk increasing their chances of developing breast cancer

Young women who regularly consume alcohol before motherhood risk increasing their chances of developing breast cancer

Excessive 'partying' before motherhood could increase the risk of breast cancer in young women, new research suggests.

A study from the US indicates that increased levels of drinking before a first pregnancy heightens the risk of the disease.

Every 10 gram per day increase in alcohol consumption - just over one unit, or a small glass of wine - was found to raise the risk of breast cancer by 11% in this study.

Meanwhile, for women with an intake of at least 15 grams of alcohol per day - roughly two units or a medium sized glass of wine - the risk was 34% higher than for non-drinkers.

The scientists used data from the Nurses' Health Study II, a major American study of health and lifestyle in female registered nurses that involved the analysis of 91,000 women aged 15 to 40.

They also discovered that increased alcohol consumption between the start of menstrual periods and first pregnancy raised the risk of benign breast disease (BBD), during which time a woman's breast tissue is believed to be especially sensitive to cancer triggers.

Compared to non-drinkers with a shorter duration, non-drinkers with duration of 10 or more years between menarche and first pregnancy had a 26% increased risk of breast cancer and an 81% increased risk of BBD.

In both cases a dose response was seen - the more women drank, the more their risk of disease increased.

Women who never have children, or delay becoming pregnant, were already known to be more susceptible to breast cancer, but the evidence suggests that alcohol consumed before first pregnancy may also play an important role in the development of breast cancer.

"Reducing alcohol consumption during this period may be an effective prevention strategy," concluded the researchers.

Among those with a history of full-term pregnancy in the study, 1,609 cases of breast cancer and 970 cases of BBD were recorded.

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