In 2007, a study showed a causal relationship between alcohol and breast cancer. The finding was confirmed by other research, which showed that alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.
However, controversy exists regarding a link between light drinking and breast cancer. This review examines three areas of study.
In a recent study, the authors addressed the relationship between light drinking and breast cancer systematically.
The review showed that drinking, even at low levels, increased the risk of breast cancer.
First, a review and summary of the literature on the biological mechanisms by which alcohol affects the risk of breast cancer showed that alcohol affects breast-cancer risk through the alteration of hormone levels and the associated biological pathways.
Second, all but two of 15 meta-analyses on the risk relationship between drinking — including light drinking — and the risk of breast cancer showed a dose-response relationship between drinking and the risk of breast cancer.
Finally, an estimate of the burden of alcohol-attributable breast cancer showed that an estimated 144,000 breast-cancer cases and 38,000 breast-cancer deaths globally in 2012 were attributable to alcohol, with 18.8% of these cases and 17.5% of these deaths affecting women who were light drinkers.
The authors of the review conclude that, due to this strong relationship, and to the amount of alcohol consumed globally, light alcohol drinking may increase the risk of breast cancer and the death rate.
Citation: Shield KD, et al. (2016). Alcohol Use and Breast Cancer: A Critical Review. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 40: 1166. DOI: 10.1111/acer.13071.
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