One drink a day raises breast cancer risk, study finds

Medical review says those with family history of disease should consider giving up alcohol

One drink a day puts women at increased risk of breast and other alcohol-related cancers, a major study has found. File photograph: Cathal McNaughton/PA Wire

One drink a day puts women at increased risk of breast and other alcohol-related cancers, a major study has found. File photograph: Cathal McNaughton/PA Wire

 

Just one drink a day puts women at increased risk of breast and other alcohol-related cancers, a major study published today suggests.

People with a family history of cancer should consider giving up alcohol altogether because of the proven link between moderate drinking and alcohol-related forms of the disease, according to the editorial accompanying the study in the British Medical Journal.

The risk of alcohol-related cancers is also higher among men who drink even lightly, but only among those who have smoked, the research finds. No association emerges in men who never smoked.

The research is likely to increase pressure on the Government to press ahead with long-delayed legislation aimed at curtailing the consumption of alcohol.

Prof Frank Murray, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the Public Health Alcohol Bill, which is now to be published in the autumn, presented the opportunity to include warnings about the risks of consuming alcohol and the number of units of alcohol in drink products.

‘No safe level’

Beaumont Hospital

Overall, the study finds light to moderate drinking is associated with minimally increased risk of total cancer in both men and women.

However, among women, light to moderate drinking is linked to an increased risk of alcohol-related cancer, mainly breast cancer.

It is already known that heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk of several cancers, but increasingly health researchers are focusing on the association between light to moderate drinking and overall cancer risk.

The role of alcohol independent of smoking has also not been settled.

In the study, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston set out to determine whether light to moderate drinking is associated with an increased risk of cancer.

They used data from two US studies that tracked the health of 88,084 women and 47,881 men for up to 30 years.

Light to moderate drinking is defined as up to one standard drink for women and up to two standard drinks for men.