Alcohol May Not Raise Risk of All Breast Cancer Types Equally

Drinking tied to greater risk of hormone receptor-positive tumors, invasive lobular carcinoma

TUESDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Alcohol use in postmenopausal women appears to increase the risk of only certain subtypes of breast cancer, according to research published online Aug. 23 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Christopher I. Li, M.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues analyzed data from 87,724 women, ages 50 to 79, in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. Participants, who were enrolled during 1993 to 1998, self-reported their history of alcohol use and were followed into 2005.

The researchers found that invasive breast cancer overall, invasive lobular carcinoma, and hormone receptor-positive tumors were all positively associated with alcohol consumption. Consuming seven or more alcoholic drinks weekly -- compared to no drinking -- was linked to a higher risk of hormone receptor-positive invasive lobular carcinoma (hazard ratio, 1.82), but not a significantly higher risk of hormone receptor-positive invasive ductal carcinoma.

"These findings highlight the importance of incorporating breast cancer subtype information in etiologic studies of the disease. Alcohol use is known to have important health risks as well as potential benefits. Although one of [the] well-known risks of alcohol is an increased risk of breast cancer, this study suggests that alcohol primarily increases risk of lobular and hormone receptor-positive breast cancer," the authors conclude.

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