Why Drinking Alcohol Increases Your Risk of Breast Cancer

Health Education
May 14, 2021
5 mins
Why Drinking Alcohol Increases Your Risk of Breast Cancer

When you are living with high breast cancer risk, whether that be from family history or other health problems, it is a good idea to take precautions.  There are ways to lower your risk of getting breast cancer.  You can do this by cutting back on certain drinks and foods that are risk factors for breast cancer.  One of these is alcohol consumption.

Many people don’t know about the link between cancer and alcohol, but it is there.  According to the American Cancer Society, drinking alcohol is a major risk factor for several types of cancer, including:

● Mouth

● Throat

● Larynx

● Esophagus

● Stomach

● Liver

● Colon

● Rectum

● Breast

When it comes to cancer and alcohol, the more you drink, the higher your risk is.  For some cancers, including breast cancer, consuming any amount of alcohol is a risk factor.  Even the doctor-recommended maximum of one drink per day for women can be risky when it comes to developing breast cancer.  Studies show that women who have just three drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer than women who don’t drink at all.

How does alcohol increase breast cancer risk?

Scientists aren’t sure exactly why alcohol increases breast cancer risk, but there are several theories.  Alcohol increases the amount of estrogen in the body.  High amounts of this hormone have been linked to breast cancer.

In addition, alcohol is linked to weight gain.  Alcohol provides empty calories that often get turned into fat.  Excessive weight and obesity are major risk factors for breast cancer.

Alcohol use also affects the way the body absorbs nutrients.  People who drink have lower amounts of the nutrients they need.  One of these is folate.  Folate is important because your body uses it to repair DNA.  Cell damage due to low folate levels is a major risk factor for cancer.

Is alcohol a carcinogen?

One thing you’ll hear about in terms of risk factors for breast cancer is that you should avoid carcinogens.  But what exactly are carcinogens?  They are substances that could give you cancer.  Under that definition, alcohol is most definitely a carcinogen.  The link between cancer and alcohol is undeniable.  

So what does this mean for you?  If you are serious about breast cancer risk, not drinking at all is a good way to curb your anxiety.  For people who don’t think they can do that, severely limiting the amount you drink can still be beneficial.  Having just one or two drinks a week is less risky than having three or more.  Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for breast cancer and any diet changes that are right for you.

What are some other risk factors for breast cancer?

In addition to alcohol consumption, other major risk factors for breast cancer include family history of the disease, obesity, and taking hormones.  You can control some of your breast cancer risk by not drinking alcohol, eating healthy, and exercising.  Other factors like your genetic history are outside of your control.  Most people who get breast cancer are women who are 50 years old or older.

Facing breast cancer risk?

If your breast cancer risk is high, you are not alone. BASS Medical Group can help you get the proper screenings and set up a healthy lifestyle that will minimize your risk as much as possible.  Their state-of-the-art imaging center has 2D and 3D mammograms as well as breast ultrasounds and MRIs.  Call (925) 350-4044 today to schedule an appointment with a cancer specialist.