According to a major new report from the American Institute for Cancer Research together with the World Cancer Research Fund, drinking just one alcoholic beverage a day increases the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer by 5% and post-menopausal risk by 9%.
However – overall the report appeared to suggest that for women with Oestrogen receptor (ER) – breast cancer a moderate intake of alcohol is associated with a protective effect and is not linked with an increased risk of death .
The report also revealed that other factors affect the risk for breast cancer – however some of these risks can be lowered by making lifestyle changes:
On a more positive note – the report also identified that vigorous exercise brings positive health benefits and could decrease the risk of both pre and post-menopausal breast cancers.
This supports findings from a previous study which had already established that regular, moderate exercise decreased the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.
Historical research has established that alcohol intake even at low levels is a risk factor for breast cancer but this association is seen to be stronger among oestrogen receptor (ER) positive tumours.
A more recent study suggests that the mechanism by which alcohol consumption increases breast cancer risk (particularly ER breast cancer) is due to its effect on oestrogen metabolism pathways and DNA damage and repair.
Other intervention studies support the hypotheses that alcohol is associated with increases in circulating oestrogen.
Experimental research has shown that ER mediated oestrogen signalling can increase the proliferation of cells which may later progress to genetic mutations.
The message is clear – whilst there are no guarantees with cancer, it is good to know that with a few easy lifestyle changes you can lower your risk.
Maintaining a healthy weight, taking part in regular physical activity and limiting alcohol intake can help you to take control of your health.
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