Alcohol & Breast Cancer


The Problem: Alcohol Attributable Breast Cancer

     Alcohol consumption and the effects that it has on increasing the risk that a women will develop breast cancer in the future is something that has been studied extensively the past 20 years. Some of these studies date back to early epidemiological data that suggests that “Increased estrogen and androgen levels in women consuming alcohol appear to be important mechanisms underlying the association.” (Singleton, 2001). According to a study that was conducted in 2012, globally about 144,000 breast cancer cases and 38,000 breast cancer deaths were attributed to alcohol consumption (Shield, 2016). The report stated that a sizable amount of the 38,000 breast cancer deaths were attributable to light drinking which was classified as having 3 to 6 drinks a week. This same study found that the highest incidences of alcohol attributable breast cancer deaths and cases were located in Northern and Western Europe (12.4 cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women) followed by North America and Oceania (9.8 cases per 100,000 women). The map that was included in  the research studpage8image429650960y which visually illustrates the geographic distribution of the alcoholic attributable breast cancer cases globally in 2012 is shown here to the right. This map shows a concentration of alcohol attributed cases and deaths in regions of the world that are highly developed. With this research still being relatively new the researchers noted that further research would be done to determine how drinking patterns, age in which alcohol is consumed, and genetic differences increase or decrease your risk for dying from or developing breast cancer. With the growing buzz around this research the question begs itself, how can this information be disseminated to women? Through public advertisements? At screenings? These are questions that should be asked to try combat this issue.



Spreading the Word: From the Doctor’s Office to Your Bar

     With all of the new research coming out each day regarding alcohol consumption and breast cancer awareness, the next step would be to inform the women who may be at risk. As mentioned in the research study above, researchers found that even being a light drinker (3 to 6 drinks per week) has the potential to increase women’s chances of developing breast cancer. In my opinion, some of the best ways to disseminate this information would be during physicals initially. This will be a very good method to enforce preventive methods of reducing alcohol-attributable breast cancer cases. During a woman’s annual physical, her primary care physician can explain to her the research being done in the field and include information about how the weekly consumption of alcohol may increase their risk of getting breast cancer. For women that may be uninsured, although it may be a bit of a stretch but literature that illustrates the risk of constantly consuming alcoholic beverages and its potential ties to breast cancer in stores and establishments where alcohol is sold could go a long way in potentially preventing women from indulging in habits that may increase their breast cancer risk. For an intervention to disseminate information through bars in liquor stores and bars would probably require some type of policy to be written. It can be expected that liquor companies and any other interested parties will provide all sorts of push back to stop advertising that would hurt sales. If women are more informed, public opinion may put enough pressure on these companies to ensure that they are informing their patrons of the risks they are exposing themselves to.




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