With one in eight British women developing breast cancer in their lifetime, the statistics speak for themselves. Checking your breasts on a regular basis is of paramount importance, and whilst the causes of the disease aren’t fully understood, a recent study has reaffirmed the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer, indicating that lifestyle factors may play a part.
What does the study reveal?
A report from the World Cancer Research Fund has revealed drinking just 1.25 units per day (equivalent to a small 125ml glass of wine) can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer after the menopause by 9%. To put that in context, in a group of 100 women, around 13 would be likely to develop breast cancer regardless of alcohol intake; if they all drank an additional small glass of wine every day, one extra case might develop among the group.
Is it that straightforward?
Unfortunately not. Despite millions of pounds being invested in research, scientists remain at a loss as to why breast cancer occurs in some women and not in others. However, they do agree that there are numerous causes and factors to take into account, such as lifestyle, hormone levels and other medical conditions. It’s a complex picture that alcohol seems to play a small role in.
How else can lifestyle make a difference?
Studies have also shown that regular vigorous exercise, such as cycling or running, can reduce the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer by 10% when compared to the least active women. Breastfeeding has also been found to lower the risk of the disease before and after the menopause. However, in terms of diet, there is little evidence to suggest that eating more leafy vegetables (such as kale and spinach) decreases the risk of contracting the breast cancer.
On a Similar Note
What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
Being a woman, over the age of 50 and past the menopause as well as having a history of breast cancer in your family all increase your risk of getting the disease. These factors, alongside your height and when you started your period (studies show being tall and starting your period before the age of 12 can increase the risk, too), are factors beyond anyone’s control. Cancer Research UK lists 18 different factors that could cause breast cancer to some degree – alcohol is only one of them.
And what can you do?
While the recent findings are nothing new, health experts have reiterated the need for women to cut back on alcohol, or at least be more aware of their drinking habits, so try to have some alcohol-free days during the week. Also, alcohol has a greater effect on the risks of several other cancers, including mouth, liver and bowel, so maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle, including a healthy weight, is the best preventative measure when it comes to most cancers.