A group of scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston found that a single glass of alcohol per day may significantly increase breast cancer risk in women.
Past studies had also revealed links between alcohol use and risk of developing various forms of cancer including liver, colon, and esophagus cancers. Yet most of those studies focused on the negative health outcomes triggered by heavy drinking. Harvard’s new study is the first to find an association between moderate alcohol use and risk of cancer.
Harvard researchers analyzed the influence of alcohol on both women and men and assessed their risk of cancer across all levels of alcohol use. The team’s purpose was to find a definite link between alcohol and the risk of developing any form of cancer.
The study involved more than 135,000 people who had reported that they drank alcohol within the recommended limits. These limits are one glass a day for women and two glasses a day for men.
But the glass should not contain more than 15 g or alcohol or the equivalent of a 118 ml glass of wine or 355 ml beer.
The study revealed that men who said they drank alcohol moderately but on a daily basis had a higher risk of cancer than their peers who drank less or no alcohol only when they associated alcohol with cigarettes. No such association was found in study participants who didn’t smoke.
But women who reportedly consumed a glass of wine per day for 30 days in a row had a 13 percent higher risk of overall cancer regardless whether they were or not smokers. And breast cancer risk was even greater when women consumed alcohol.
During their research, study authors sifted through data gathered by a national survey designed to assess nurses’ health – the Nurses’ Health Study – and a study designed to assess men’s health – the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Study participants were monitored between the 1980s and 2010.
Dr. Jürgen Rehm, head of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health’s Social and Epidemiological Research, said that alcohol may be only one risk factor which in combination with other factors such as a family history of breast cancer may lead to cancer.
Dr. Rehm recommends that women who know that breast cancer runs in their families should try and either decrease their alcohol intake below the limits considered healthy by medical professionals or simply stay away from it.
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