Even Light Alcohol Consumption Found to Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Alcohol found to affect biologic mechanisms that raise the risk of cancer.

Although a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer has been found, a new study revealed an association between even light drinking and an increased risk of developing the disease.

A review and summary was done by the Research Society on Alcoholism on the biologic mechanisms that alcohol affects and may raise the risk of breast cancer. The mechanisms included the alteration of hormone levels and the associated biologic pathways, carcinogens generated during the metabolism of ethanol, and the inhibition of the 1-carbon metabolism pathway.

Of the 15 meta-analyses on the risk between drinking, including light drinking and breast cancer, all but 2 showed a dose response relationship between drinking and the risk of developing the disease.

Researchers used alcohol consumption data collected from the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health and cancer incidence and mortality data from the GLOBOCAN database. The data was used to estimate the burden of alcohol-attributed breast cancer incidence and mortality using a Population-Attributable Fraction methodology.

The results of the study showed that in 2012, approximately 144,000 cases of breast cancer and 38,000 breast cancer deaths worldwide were attributable to alcohol.

There were 18.8% of these cases and 17.5% of deaths that affected women who were light drinkers.

From the findings of the study, researchers concluded that because of the strong relationship and the large quantities of alcohol consumed, the incidence of mortality of breast cancer patients from alcohol in general, as well as light consumption is significant.