Facebook Pixel

Even Small Amount of Alcohol Increases Risk of Breast Cancer

Rate This
Breast Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

Everyone agrees that drinking large amounts of alcohol is not good for health. Now there is a research study showing that even low amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer. The latest research conducted by Dr. Wendy Chen from Brigham and Woman’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston reveals that even drinking modest amount of alcohol over long periods is not safe.

Dr. Chen conducted a large prospective observational study on 105, 986 women and examined the cumulative effects of alcohol consumption over the 28-year study period.

The result revealed that consuming 3-6 glasses of wine per week over a long period slightly increases the risk for invasive breast cancer. Not surprisingly, the study did reveal that larger amount of alcohol consumption was also associated with increased breast cancer risk over the study period. (1)

So should women completely abstain from alcohol to reduce the risk of breast cancer?

Not so. The study showed that drinking an average of 4.9 g of alcohol a day was not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer risk compared to people who never drank alcohol. Dr. Chen says a little alcohol is okay. She even tells her own patients to limit alcohol consumption to just a few drinks each week.

Dr. Chen further added that the benefits of alcohol on heart disease should be balanced against the small risk of breast cancer.

This is the first study that has shown that the cumulative amount of alcohol a female consumes during adulthood is the best predictor of her breast cancer risk. How alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer is not well-understood. It is not even known if the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk will decrease once the intake is discontinued.

It is believed that alcohol effects on the breast may be related to its effects
on circulating levels of estrogen (2).

The study found that there was little difference between liquor, beer or wine.


1.Chen et al. Moderate Alcohol Consumption During Adult Life, Drinking Patterns, and Breast Cancer Risk
Abstract: http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/306/17/1884.abstract

2. Narod SA. Alcohol and Risk of Breast Cancer
Abstract: http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/306/17/1920.extract

Reviewed November 9, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Great post! I love to go have a drink after work every now and then, but it's difficult when I'm trying to exercise and maintain a figure. It's so frustrating sometimes. I found a humorous take on drinking and working out and stumbled on your blog searching for more thoughts.

Thanks for the post! Loved it. Here’s the post I read before I end up finding yours if you’re interested: http://www.tchuddle.com/2011/04/my-old-friend-alcohol/

November 9, 2011 - 5:17pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Breast Cancer

Get Email Updates

Related Checklists

Breast Cancer Guide


Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!