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Alcoholic beverage raises breast cancer risk

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By David Liu, PHD

Friday Aug 31, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- For your information, alcoholic beverage consumption is a human carcinogen, meaning that drinking alcohol even lightly can increase risk of cancers including breast cancer.

A new meta-analysis found even light alcoholic beverage consumption was linked to a significantly increased risk for breast cancer.

 Helmut K. Seitz of University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany and colleagues searched major databases for epidemiological studies published by Nov 2011 and meta-analyzed the data on light alcohol drinking and incidence of breast cancer.

They found intake of up to one alcoholic drink per day, which is considered light alcoholic beverage consumption, was associated with 4 percent increased risk for breast cancer.

Heavy alcoholic beverage consumption, defined as three or more drinks per day, was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer by 40 to 50%. This means that up to 5 percent of breast cancer cases are attributed to alcolhol consumption in Northern European and North America. Worldwide, it causes 50,000 cases of breast cancer.

Light alcoholic beverage consumption alone was responsible for up to 1–2% of the total of breast cancer cases in Europe and North America.

What alcoholic beverage does is increase serum levels of estrogen, which promotes breast cancer by exerting its carcinogenic effect on breast tissue either through the estrogen receptors or directly.

Alcohol can also promote breast cancer through its metabolite like acetaldehyde, which is highly toxic, oxidative stress, epigenetic changes due to a disturbed methyl transfer. Alcohol can also decrease retinoic acid associated with an altered cell cycle. 

The researchers concluded women should not use more than one drink per day, and women at elevated risk for breast cancer should completely avoid alcoholic beverage.

Alcoholic beverages are recognized by the U.S. Toxicology Program as a human carcinogen, and drinking alcohol increases a number of cancers

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