Know Your Limit: Daily Drinking and Breast Cancer Risk

Premier Health Now

Daily drinking may increase your risk for developing breast cancer — but don’t forego that glass of wine with dinner just yet.

A new report from the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research says sipping an average of 10 grams of alcohol a day is associated with:

  • A 5 percent increased breast cancer risk in premenopausal women
  • A 9 percent increase in post-menopausal women 

What does this mean for you? Premier Health Now talked with Thomas Heck, MD, Gem City Surgical Breast Care Center, to find out.

“This is all about moderation,” says Dr. Heck. “No one is saying never drink alcohol.”

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Cancer Society recommend no more than one alcoholic drink a day to reduce breast cancer risk.

“We’ve known for a long time that alcohol increases breast cancer risk,” says Dr. Heck. “What we don't know is exactly how much is too much.”

The latest news cites 10 grams of alcohol, the same as:

  • A small glass of wine
  • An 8-ounce beer
  • 1 ounce of hard liquor

Those amounts are a bit less than the average bottled beer (12 ounces) or a typical glass of wine (5 ounces). No one has studied alcohol’s effect on breast cancer risk ounce by ounce, Dr. Heck says. 

“The key is moderation. When you do drink, limit it to one,” Dr. Heck says. 

Alcohol can deliver health benefits. A daily drink — especially red wine — can reduce heart disease risk, says the American Heart Association. Coronary heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.

Alcohol consumption is a controllable lifestyle risk factor for breast cancer, along with being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.

“Don’t be fearful about having a drink,” Dr. Heck advises, “but do be mindful and don’t overindulge.”