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STUDY: Study shows increased risk of breast cancer
JOURNAL: Annals of Internal Medicine
AUTHORS: Dr. JoAnn Manson
ABSTRACT: Women who drink alcohol and take hormones are at almost double the risk of breast cancer, researchers with a large ongoing study say.
COMMENTARY: Previous studies have shown that women who have more than a drink a day raise their risk of breast cancer, and that hormone replacement therapy also increases the cancer risk.
The Nurses’ Health Study assessed the risk of the two factors combined. Researchers said the good news is that alcohol and estrogen together do not greatly magnify the danger through interaction. Some scientists were concerned that might be the case.
Instead, what they found is that a postmenopausal woman who has a lifetime breast cancer risk of 4 percent could increase the risk to 8 percent if she drinks and takes hormones.
“The public health message is that the two will substantially increase your risk of breast cancer and you might want to be particularly vigilant about having both of these risk factors,” said study co-author Dr. JoAnn Manson of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
During the study years of 1980-94, 1,722 women developed breast cancer. Women who took hormones for at least five years but drank no alcohol increased their risk of breast cancer by about 30 percent, as did women who did not take hormones but consumed more than one drink a day.
For women who took hormones and drank alcohol, the risk nearly doubled.
For those women who still take hormones, a good compromise would be to consume no more than one drink of red wine a day at the most. That way, women can still get the cardiovascular benefits of moderate alcohol use while eliminating the increased breast-cancer risk.