The Breast Cancer & Alcohol Connection
To drink or not to drink? That is the question many women face when trying to prevent or reverse breast cancer. With conflicting informat...
To drink or not to drink? That is the question many women face when trying to prevent or reverse breast cancer. With conflicting information and studies, it can be a difficult decision for many women. Here’s some information to help you make the right choice for you.
Research shows that the risk of breast cancer increases by 15 percent if a woman drinks three or more alcoholic beverages weekly. The risk increases by an additional 10 percent for every drink after that.
On the flip side, a just-released large study of over 22,000 women found that women who are moderate drinkers (described as 3 to 6 drinks weekly prior to a breast cancer diagnosis) were 15 percent less likely to die from breast cancer and 25 percent less likely to experience heart disease. The study followed the participants for 11 years.
So what exactly does this mean? Based on these studies drinking 3 or more alcoholic beverages weekly may increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer but moderate drinking can help protect against death from the disease. Does that mean that you should run out and buy a bottle of wine or a case of beer? Of course not. It does mean that most women can enjoy an occasional drink without the guilt.
Of course, as with all things other factors may play a role in your decision. Some women just don’t do well with alcohol for any number of reasons: aggravating menopausal or menstrual symptoms, the sugar may increase the risk for yeast infections, liver impairment, or blood sugar issues like diabetes. And if you have a history or family history of breast cancer, the risk from drinking is probably not worth the occasional drink. Alcohol also depletes some of the nutrients required to deal with stress such as vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins so you may wish to avoid that drink and/or supplement with these vitamins to help replenish any lost nutrients.
One B vitamin in particular, folate or B9, helps our bodies build and maintain healthy DNA—an important consideration to help prevent or reverse breast cancer or any type of cancer for that matter. Further research shows that higher intakes of folate reduces the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. Because B-vitamins tend to work best synergistically, it’s best to supplement with a B-complex vitamin instead of just a single B vitamin. A 100 mg B-complex is a good option for many women (that normally includes 100 micrograms, not milligrams, of folate as this vitamin is measured in micrograms).
Then there is the sugar consideration in alcohol. Just a few teaspoons of sugar (the amount in many alcoholic beverages) depresses the immune system for four to six hours. For many women that drink isn’t worth the immune suppression.
If you’re drinking to cope with stress, then you definitely need to find other methods of coping, such as meditation, yoga, walking, getting out into nature, talking with a trustworthy friend, journaling, or other strategy.