Alcohol Use Can Trigger Gene That Causes Breast Cancer

Alcohol can affect estrogen in breast cancer cells and weakens the ability of drugs that halt proliferation.

An association between alcohol and breast cancer was linked to a cancer-causing gene triggered by alcohol use during a recent study.

It’s estimated that in the United States and Europe, tens of thousands of breast cancer cases can be attributed to the consumption of alcohol. Furthermore, drinking is associated with an increased risk of recurrence for women with early stage breast cancer.

“Alcohol consumption is prevalent among women in the US and is a risk factor for breast cancer,” said study author Chin-Yo Lin. “Our research shows alcohol enhances the actions of estrogen in driving the growth of breast cancer cells and diminishes the effects of the cancer drug Tamoxifen on blocking estrogen by increasing the levels of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF.”

Researchers from the University of Houston wanted to determine how alcohol affects estrogen in breast cancer cells.

The results of a study published in PLOS ONE found that alcohol increased estrogen-induced cell proliferation. As alcohol promotes the sustained expression of BRAF, even when estrogen is absent, it results in mimicking or enhancing estrogen to increase the risk of breast cancer.

Additionally, researchers discovered alcohol weakened the ability of the drug Tamoxifen to halt rapid cancer cell growth.

The findings from the study provide insight on the mechanism of alcohol in breast cancer and implications for women receiving hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms, because alcohol can affect hormonal actions.

Furthermore, researchers found that there are potential long-term health effects for college age women who could be involved in heavy or binge drinking environments.

“We hope these and future findings will provide information and motivation to promote healthy behavioral choices, as well as potential targets for chemoprevention strategies to ultimately decrease breast cancer incidents and deaths within the next decade,” Lin said. “We want to provide women, in general, with more information and insight to be better able to balance their consumption of alcoholic beverages with the potential health risks, including cancer patients who may want to take into consideration the potential detrimental effects alcohol consumption might have on treatments and modify their behavior and habits accordingly.”