Rochester, N.Y.— A new study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that women who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol throughout their lifetime show increased chances of developing breast cancer.
Researchers monitored 100,000 women through the Nurses’ Health Study. The study was done over 28 years—making it one of the largest studies of its kind.
“In the past we've known women who consume a lot of alcohol increase the risk of breast cancer,” says Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society. “We actually thought that a small amount of alcohol was relatively safe for breast cancer."
The new study shows that women who drank three to six glasses of alcohol a day increased a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer by 15 percent.
The risks were even higher for women who drank two glasses of alcohol a day. Their chances of breast cancer increased by 51 percent.
Patti Cataldi, chairman of the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, is a breast cancer survivor. She says that while all studies should be viewed with a critical eye, this new study may make woman rethink their lifestyles.
“Most of the past studies that I’m aware of show that alcohol abuse can be linked to cancer,” says Cataldi. “Many studies have said that...for the social drinker...a glass of wine here and there really didn’t come into play. This study shows something different.”
Cataldi and researchers say women should know and understand the benefits and risks associated with alcohol and make decisions right for their individual lives.
“I think [this study] is just one more tool, one more bit of knowledge so that women can make their own choice about their individual lifestyles,” says Cataldi. “You have to know what you can live with and what you can go to bed with.”
Researchers say that not drinking alcohol will not prevent breast cancer but may reduce the risks.
They note that alcohol is just one of many contributing factors to breast cancer.