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Breast Health- Alcohol and Breast Cancer Connection

According to Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, PhD. drinking any kind of alcohol, even red wine, ups the chance of breast cancer. Just one drink a day will increase your lifetime risk of breast cancer by 5 percent, and it goes up from there, with six daily drinks raising risk by a whopping 40 percent. In fact, alcohol is a culprit in nearly 11 percent of breast cancers, say British researchers who followed more than a million women over a 7-year period. While the research is clear on the risk of alcohol, the why behind this risk is much less clear.

The current thinking holds that alcohol throws a monkey wrench into estrogen metabolism. Since many breast tumors are fueled by this hormone, when alcohol increases estrogen in the body, it also increases breast cancer risk. As a double whammy, alcohol saps the body of folic acid by increasing how much of this B vitamin leaves the body in urine. Folic acid plays a key role in producing new cells to replace damaged cells throughout the body, and it also guards against DNA damage that can lead to cancer. When alcohol reduces the body’s folic acid supply, this cancer watchdog is no longer on guard against breast cells that could become cancerous. Supplementing with 400 mcg folic acid (the amount in a multi) and increasing your intake of folic acid¬–rich foods such as nuts, beans, whole grains, spinach, brussels sprouts, bananas, and oranges may help offset the increased risk of breast cancer that results from the occasional drink.

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