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Red wine and breast cancer

Women could discover several confusing articles about red wine and breast cancer. Some experts recommend avoid alcohol including red wine and some consider red wine as anticancer remedy. Some introduce red wine health benefits. What about women who already have breast cancer? What to do? The dilemma is – Drink or not to drink the red wine if you want to prevent breast cancer or if you want to survive after breast cancer treatments?

About red wine and breast cancer

Red grapes and red wine contain pretty powerful antioxidants (so called “polyphenols” and “resveratrol”) which have been shown to interact during breast cancer development.

Resveratrol has the ability to suppress proliferation of breast cancer cells and promote cell death, as well as inhibiting aromatase, which is important for reducing growth-stimulatory effects in estrogen-dependent breast cancer. At the same time, the alcohol consumption is positively correlated with breast cancer risk and increased rates of breast cancer recurrence, especially in cases of hormone-sensitive tumors (ER+ and PR+) and lobular breast cancer. The association between alcohol intake and increased breast cancer risk is strongest in postmenopausal women.

So, the conclusion is that red wine antioxidants can play a positive role in cases of breast cancer but in combination with alcohol, red wine is increasing not only risks for breast cancer development but also it increasing the risk for breast cancer recurrences.

Red grapes, blueberries, blackberries and cranberries are good alternate sources of resveratrol. Some alcohol-free red wines can also play a positive role providing not only antioxidants but also a good mood.

Science about alcohol, red wine, breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence

Some studies noted that consistent alcohol intake acts as a catalyst, increasing the levels of estrogen in female body – it can be considered as a risk factor for breast cancer development (especially for hormone-sensitive tumors). There is a definite link between regular alcohol drinking and breast cancer (even one glass of red wine per day).

It is well known that alcohol is a carcinogen – substance which can trigger cancer development. It was noted that obese smoking postmenopausal women are more sensitive to negative actions of alcohol.

Red wine and breast cancer

Several scientific studies worldwide confirm that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer. The famous Million Women Study (supported by Cancer Research UK) followed 1.3 million middle-aged women attending UK breast cancer screening clinics (during 1996-2001), discovered that one quarter of the women didn’t drink at all; of those that did, the average amount was one drink per day. Over the following 7 years, researchers found just 1 drink per day made a 12% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer. This seemingly doubled with each additional daily drink. Interesting to mention that this study have shown absolutely no difference in increased breast cancer risk for women who drank wine exclusively to those who drank other forms of alcohol.

Some scientists pay a special attention to alcohol consumption and breast cancer recurrence and survival among women with early-stage breast cancer – very special epidemiological study was performed (“The life after cancer epidemiology study”). The conclusion of this comprehensive study is the following:

“Consuming three to four alcoholic drinks or more per week after a breast cancer diagnosis may increase risk of breast cancer recurrence, particularly among postmenopausal and overweight/obese women.
More than other alcoholic beverages, wine has a stronger correlation to breast cancer recurrence and mortality rates”.
2010, Marilyn L. Kwan, Lawrence H. Kushi, Erin Weltzien, Emily K. Tam, Adrienne Castillo, Carol Sweeney and Bette J. Caan

A major prospective study which included 1,897 breast cancer patients from Kaiser Permanente Northern California reported that moderate alcohol consumption was associated with increased breast cancer recurrence. The majority of the women (89%) drank wine. Compared with abstinence from alcohol, drinking at least 6 g/day of alcohol was found to be associated with 1.35 times the risk of breast cancer recurrence. The risk of recurrence was higher among postmenopausal and overweight women. The authors concluded that consuming three to four alcoholic drinks or more per week after a breast cancer diagnosis may increase risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Modern science has several evidences to strongly recommend women avoid alcohol (including red wine) – even moderate levels of alcohol could significantly increase women risks of breast cancer development and increase risk of recurrence in breast cancer survivors.


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