Alcohol Consumption May up Breast Cancer Risk by Increasing Mammographic Density
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Women who are at risk of breast cancer and drink alcohol have significantly higher mammographic density than at-risk women who abstain, a new study has found.
“Since mammographic density is a strong risk factor of breast cancer, we speculate that breast cancer risk may increase among high-risk consumers,”
Thang Trinh, a doctoral student at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, who worked on the study, told Reuters Health by email.
“This information could be used in breast cancer counselling, that is women already at high risk of breast cancer are suggested to consider lowering their alcohol consumption,” Trinh said.
The findings appeared online June 2 in the British Journal of Cancer.
Past research has suggested a link between alcohol consumption and mammographic density, but the researchers wanted to explore how background risk of breast cancer might affect the correlation.
To do so, they looked at more than 53,000 Swedish women 40-70 years old, assessing their risk for breast cancer within 10 years according to their Tyrer-Cuzick score.
The more alcohol consumed, the higher the mammographic density among women with the highest 10-year risk, which is at least 5% according to the Tyrer-Cuzick model, the researchers found. Those women account for roughly 15% of all women in the study.
Compared to high-risk women who abstained, high-risk women who drank 20-29.9 g of alcohol per day had 4.6 cm3 higher absolute dense volume. And those who drank 30-40 g of alcohol per day had 10.8 cm3 higher dense volume, the researchers found.
There was a trend of higher density with higher alcohol consumption among women with low risk, but not in those at mid-level risk.
According to the American Cancer Society 2012 guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention, women should have no more than one alcoholic drink per day.
Whether that advice extends even to women with the highest background risk for breast cancer is not known.
“Our data indicate that approximately 85% of all women could safely take one drink of alcohol per day without experiencing an increased mammographic density and thereby an elevated risk of breast cancer,” Trinh said.
Br J Cancer 2015.
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