Monday, April 8, 2013

Report clouds connection between alcohol and breast cancer

Research reported April 8 online in advance of publication in the Journal of Clinical Oncology finds alcohol does not reduce survivability from breast cancer.

Previous research has linked alcohol consumption to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, and this study does not contradict those findings. (See the Oct. 25 examiner article on the breast cancer/alcohol link) Alcohol consumption is believed to influence breast cancer risk through increases in estrogen production.

The new study by Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center indicates that once a patient has the disease, drinking before and after her diagnosis does not impact survival from the disease. In fact, some benefit was found in women who were “moderate” drinkers due to a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, a major cause of mortality among breast cancer survivors.

So alcohol can increase breast cancer risk, but may also improve outcomes once a patient has the disease.

Polly Newcomb, Ph.D.,led the study. "Our findings should be reassuring to women who have breast cancer because their past experience consuming alcohol will not impact their survival after diagnosis."

The study began in 1988 and was conducted in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. Among study participants with a history of breast cancer, the authors found that the amount and type of alcohol a woman reported consuming in the years before her diagnosis was not associated with her likelihood from dying from the cancer. However, the authors also found that those who consumed a moderate level of alcohol (three to six drinks per week) in the years before their cancer diagnosis were 15 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than non-drinkers.

Wine drinking, in moderation, was associated with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, while no such benefit was evident for consumption of beer or spirits, or for heavier levels of drinking.
The report does not recommend drinking alcohol. An accompanying editorial cites many other risks of drinking alcohol, including alcohol use disorders (alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism), and that “alcohol intake may be associated with accidental or violent death.” A separate report Feb. 14 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrated other health risks specific to women drinkers, beyond increasing the chance for breast cancer, leading to 23,000 deaths annually.

Additionally, the American Journal of Public Health posted research from Boston University earlier this year on the connection between all cancers and alcohol consumption. (See related examiner story) That study determined that alcohol-related cancer death took away an average of 18 potential years from a person's life. Boston University's Timothy Naimi, PhD., said. “When it comes to cancer, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption."

--- from my article posted this evening