Limit Alcohol to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk

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

The link between alcohol use and increased breast cancer risk is a bit clearer, thanks to a recent study from the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research.

Research released in 2017 finds that drinking an average of 10 grams of alcohol a day may cause:

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

Thomas Heck, MD, Gem City Surgical Breast Care Center, says women don’t need to avoid alcohol, but should limit their intake to one drink a day.

“Alcohol is one of many components we can control,” says Dr. Heck. “And we must be knowledgeable about ways to reduce cancer risk.”

“The more we know, the more it takes away the fear,” says Dr. Heck. “Be sensible and knowledgeable.”

Daily Drinking: The Good and the Bad  

The new report sheds more light on the relationship between drinking and the likelihood of developing breast cancer. While no one has studied alcohol’s effect on breast cancer risk ounce by ounce, says Dr. Heck, a good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to one drink a day.

The latest data found an increased cancer risk among women who drank 10 grams of alcohol daily. 

That’s the same as:

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

For comparison, the average bottled beer is 12 ounces and a typical glass of wine is 5 ounces.

Don’t forget, alcohol can deliver health benefits, too. 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.

“Moderation is key,” says Dr. Heck.

One Factor Among Many

Limit Alcohol small

When it comes to breast cancer risk, alcohol is just one item on a long list of potential risks. You likely already know about some of your own risk factors for breast cancer.

Some characteristics, such as gender, age and race, can’t be changed. Lifestyle factors, including weight, exercise and diet, can be controlled to reduce your cancer risk. 

Be sure to talk with your doctor about what you can do to reduce your breast cancer risk. 

The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that about one-third of breast cancer cases could be prevented with weight control, exercise and cutting back on alcohol.

“There are so many other factors to be knowledgeable about,” Dr. Heck says. “Don't overdo alcohol and incorporate lifestyle changes. A healthy weight and regular physical activity can reduce your risk by 20 percent.”

More Ways to Reduce Your Risk

To reduce your breast cancer risk even more, follow these tips from Dr. Heck:

  • Follow your doctor’s recommendations for mammograms.
  • If you are at high risk for breast cancer, talk with your doctor about genetic testing.
  • If you are of childbearing age, breastfeed your baby to reduce your cancer risk.

“The more we know, the more it takes away the fear,” says Dr. Heck. “Be sensible and knowledgeable.”

Small Steps: Accept Offers of Help.
Lighten your load by sharing your task list with friends who want to help. You’ll both feel better!