23 November 2011

Evidence Based Medicine: Even Modest Alcohol Use Increases Breast Cancer Risk

Most of my emails from Medscape go into my archive unread, but certain words catch my attention. Like chocolate (which BTW is good for you), and softdrinks (which apparently cause violent behavior in children), and now alcohol, which according to the article increases breast cancer risk! 

Oh no. I used to have a history of alcohol binge-ing, and even now that I've sort of outgrown the getting-wasted parties it's still fun getting myself drunk enough to sing Paris Hilton songs on karaoke and dance like crazy person. Oh, okay that's a lie, I do that even when sober but the bottomline is I have a casual love affair with alcohol and apparently even that's bad now. :|

According to the study by Dr. Chen and her colleagues published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), large amounts of alcohol consumption correlated with increased breast cancer risk over the study period (1976-2006), but even alcohol consumption as low as 5.0 - 9.9 g/ day (which equates to roughly 3-6 drinks in a week) was associated with a significant increase in risk! Uh oh.
Drinking an average of 10.0 to 19.9 g of alcohol per day (6 to 12 drinks a week) resulted in a 22% increase in risk (RR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.07 to 1.35). At the upper end of the drinking scale, drinking 30 g or more a day resulted in a 51% increased risk (RR, 1.51; 95% CI, 1.35 to 1.70), compared with drinking no alcohol at all.
Does that mean all girls should stop drinking? :(

No more margaritas? 

Not really. (Yay?) Low levels of average daily alcohol consumption (<4.9g/ day) did not result in a significant increase in breast cancer risk compared to complete non-drinkers. Mind you though, that a standard (12oz) bottle of beer or a shot of tequila has around 14g of pure alcohol. So technically we are allowed one drink every 3-4 days unless we stick with San Mig's flavored beers which are only 3% alcohol. 

So the point here ladies, is that we should be smarter about our drinking. These studies look into cumulative lifetime alcohol consumption so a few margaritas during a girls' night out is fine as long as we make up for it by not drinking for a while. Binge drinking (aka more than four drinks in one sitting) is a big NO though. It's an additional risk for breast cancer even after controlling for the cumulative alcohol consumption. 

Other study results:

  • Increase in risk is highest when you drink at BOTH early (18-40yo) and late (>40yo) periods of life
  • It is still not known whether going cold turkey will diminish the increase in breast CA risk caused by alcohol
  • The type of alcohol you consume doesn't matter, only the total amount of alcohol you drink
  • Frequency of drinking is not associated with increased risk after controlling for the cumulative amount

Alcohol isn't totally bad though, remember all those stuff about a little alcohol being good for your heart? They're true too, so it's up to you to weigh the risks against the benefits. 

My advice: cut down on the alcohol and get the cardiovascular benefits from chocolate instead! Hrhrhr.

If you have a Medscape account, you can view the CME article here. The original journal article (access to the clinical abstract is free) can be viewed at the JAMA website.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...