With more than 100 studies confirming this fact, it is unanimous that drinking alcohol increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
Alcohol consumption is estimated to be the cause of between 5-11% of all breast cancer cases, however awareness on the link here in Australia amongst women remains relatively low.
Alcohol impacts your risk as it limits your liver’s ability to control the levels of oestrogen in your blood, subsequently increasing your risk. It can also increase your risk by damaging DNA in cells.
When you consider that in 2019, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with around 19,535 women expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone. That’s a whopping 53 individuals every single day, with up to five of these women’s diagnosis statistically speaking, directly linked to their alcohol consumption.
A UK study published in the medical journal of BMJ Open revealed that less than one in five women attending a mammogram were aware of the impact of alcohol on their breast cancer risk. Even the staff had knowledge gaps, with less than half of the staff at the breast screening centre aware that alcohol has a breast cancer risk factor.
Whilst family history remains a factor many women can’t change when it comes to their breast cancer risk, there are many modifiable factors that we can change to reduce our risk.
In addition to alcohol consumption, being overweight and not exercising enough are all factors which can easily be addressed to reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
With over 200 women involved in the study, approximately half were going for a routine screen, while the other half were there due to the discovery of symptoms. An additional 30 staff were interviewed to better understand their knowledge when it came to the link between breast cancer and alcohol.
Overall, two thirds (66.5%) of those involved in the study drank alcohol and over one in two (57%) could not identify the correct alcohol content of common types of alcoholic beverages.
Cancer Council Australia recommends that if you choose to drink, you should:
- Limit your intake – the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends no more than two standard drinks per day
- Avoid binge drinking or ‘save’ drinks from alcohol-free days to consume in one sitting
- Have at least two alcohol-free days per week
- Choose low-alcohol drinks
- Always eat whilst drinking
By reducing your alcohol intake by even just one drink per day could significantly reduce your breast cancer risk.
A healthy lifestyle is key to reducing modifiable factors that could influence your risk. To learn what over factors could impact your risk of breast cancer, click here.