Alcohol Increases Breast Cancer Risk

Alcohol use is known to increase the risk of developing breast cancer in women. But many women are unaware of the link between alcohol and breast cancer.

In one study, researchers analyzed information from 205 women who had undergone breast cancer screening or treatment for breast cancer symptoms at a UK hospital.

About half of the women participating in the study knew that smoking poses a risk for breast cancer, and 30% of the participants stated that they knew obesity as a risk factor. However, it turned out that only about 20% of the study participants knew that alcohol consumption was a risk factor.

It was determined that there is a lack of knowledge of the link between alcohol and breast cancer, even among healthcare professionals. It turned out that only 49% of the 33 healthcare professionals surveyed knew about the link between breast cancer and alcohol.

The new study in question was conducted in a single health center in the UK, so the findings are not applicable to the general public. But the findings suggest the same thing as previous research in the United States: A 2017 study by the American Society of Clinical Oncology found that 70% of Americans were unaware that alcohol use is a risk factor for cancer.

On the other hand, alcohol consumption is responsible for about 5% to 11% of all breast cancer cases, and higher risks are estimated among heavy drinkers. Also, a recent study finds that drinking one bottle of wine a week is equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes a week for women in terms of overall cancer risk.

The new study also suggests that it can be difficult for people to estimate exactly how much alcohol they consume. The study found that more than half of the participants were unable to accurately estimate how much alcohol was in any of the four commonly consumed spirits (a glass of wine, a glass of beer, a quart of cider, and a bottle of liquor).

“This shows that many women may not be aware that alcohol consumption increases their risk of breast cancer,” the researchers wrote in the June 18 issue of the journal BMJ Open.

During visits to breast cancer screenings and breast cancer symptoms, little education can be provided about things that can reduce cancer risk, such as reducing alcohol use, the researchers say.

In the study, when asked how such a small information appointment would be, 30% of the participants stated that it would be beneficial. The remaining 70% stated that it would not make any difference.

However, more research is needed on how to best present such information. Because both patients and health care providers state that such sessions can be accusatory to people who use alcohol and people may be uncomfortable with this situation.

LiveScience, Alcohol Boosts the Risk of Breast Cancer. Many Women Have No Idea, 2019

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