December 14th, 2009

Alcohol Increases Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence


Among women treated for early-stage breast cancer, those who consume three to four alcoholic drinks per week or more have a higher risk of breast cancer recurrence than non-drinkers. These results were presented at the 2009 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Previous studies have reported that alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing breast cancer, but there has been limited information about whether alcohol influences breast cancer prognosis and survival.

To address this question, researchers evaluated information from the Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) study. The study enrolled 1,897 women who were diagnosed with early-stage, invasive breast cancer between 1997 and 2000. Information about alcohol consumption was collected by questionnaire.

  • Compared with women who drank little or nothing, women who consumed at least three to four drinks per week were 30% more likely to experience a breast cancer recurrence.
  • Women who drank less than three drinks per week did not appear to have an increased risk of recurrence.
  • Alcohol consumption was not associated with overall risk of death.
  • Women who were postmenopausal or overweight appeared to be most susceptible to the adverse effect of alcohol.

In a prepared statement, the lead researcher suggested that “women previously diagnosed with breast cancer should consider limiting their consumption of alcohol to less than three drinks per week, especially women who are postmenopausal and overweight or obese.”

Reference: Kwan ML. Alcohol and breast cancer survival in a prospective cohort study. Presented at the 32nd CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. December 9-13, 2009. San Antonio, TX. Abstract 17.

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