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Drinking Alcohol Appears to Increase Breast Cancer Risks

After early-stage diagnosis, drinking linked to higher risk of recurrence, disease-related death

TUESDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Among women who previously were diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, alcohol drinking may increase the risks for disease recurrence and death, especially in postmenopausal and overweight and obese women, according to research published online Aug. 30 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Marilyn L. Kwan, Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., and colleagues administered a survey on alcohol use to 1,897 early-stage breast cancer survivors diagnosed during 1997 to 2000 who took part in the Life After Cancer Epidemiology study. The researchers assessed the risks for recurrence and mortality associated with alcohol use in a mean follow-up of 7.4 years.

Overall, 51 percent of the cohort were classified as drinkers (more than 0.5 g/d of alcohol), with the majority being wine drinkers (89 percent). Compared to no drinking, the researchers found that drinking 6 g/d of alcohol or more was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer recurrence (hazard ratio [HR], 1.35) and death due to breast cancer (HR, 1.51), with the recurrence risk higher for postmenopausal women (HR, 1.51) and women who were overweight/obese (HR, 1.60). However, alcohol consumption was not associated with all-cause death and was possibly associated with a reduced risk for death from causes other than breast cancer.

"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, yet the cardioprotective effects of alcohol on non-breast cancer death were suggested," the authors write.

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