Wine and Breast Cancer

Q: Is it true that drinking wine may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer?

A: Many factors are associated with breast cancer. The older a woman is, the greater the chance of exposure to potential cancer-promoting agents, and so age is clearly a factor. Genetics play an important role; in the United States approximately 10 percent of the breast cancer cases are a result of inherited genetic mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

This links directly, then, to the hereditary, or familial, relationships to breast cancer. If a woman has two or more first-degree relatives (mother, sister) who have had breast cancer, this should alert her to increased vigilance and care because of the increased risk of this disease. Diet has been discussed in the preceding question.

Despite the purported (and disputed) so-called benefits of wine to cardiovascular health, the effects of alcohol and breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women, are seldom discussed simultaneously. Wine consumption has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. A recent paper cited in the European Journal of Cancer Supplements (vol. 5, no. 4, p. 161) confirms that not only wine but all forms of alcoholic beverages relate to increased risk of breast cancer.

True temperance teaches us to use all things good in moderation and avoid entirely that which is harmful. How true this is of alcohol!

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