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May 15, 2010 07:52AM Beesie wrote:
AH!!!!! I hate the scare tactics on alcohol! Let's get the facts straight rather than shout out scare tactics.
Yes, studies have shown that alcohol consumption may increase BC risk by up to 30%. This means that alcohol is considered to be a low risk factor for breast cancer. There's no argument about that. The 30% increase in risk is exactly the number that I used in my previous post. What it means is that someone who had a mastectomy for DCIS, who has a 1% - 2% risk of recurrence, may increase their risk of recurrence to 1.3% - 2.6% if they consume moderate amounts of alcohol. Recurrence risk is spread over many years - some recurrences don't happen for 10 years or even longer, but most recurrences will happen within the first five years after an initial diagnosis. So this means that for those of us who had mastectomies for DCIS, consuming alcohol may increase our recurrence risk by approx. 0.1% per year. Wow!!! That's sure going to keep me from enjoying a glass of wine. Uh, no!!
What about those who had a lumpectomy? If someone has a post-treatment (surgery, possibly radiation, possibly Tamoxifen) recurrence risk of 6%, a 30% increase means that moderate consumption of alcohol will increase this recurrence risk to 7.8%. Again, this risk is spread over many years, but most of the risk will occur within the first five years. So in this example, for each of these first 5 years, recurrence risk may be increased by 0.35%. Whether this is enough of a risk increase to eliminate alcohol consumption from your lifestyle is a personal decision.
To put the BC risk from alcohol consumption into perspective, take a look at this risk chart from the Komen Foundation: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/BreastCancerRiskFactorsTable.html Most of our BC risk is driven by factors that we can't control. We freak out about alcohol because it is one of the few risk factors that we can control, but the fact is that it is a low risk factor and the amount that most of us will be able to impact our overall risk by reducing/eliminating alcohol consumption is very small.
Something else to keep in mind is that the leading cause of death of women in North America is heart disease. Cancer - all cancers combined, including lung cancer which kills more women than breast cancer - is second. Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease (note however that heavy alcohol consumption has the oppositve effect). This is why study after study has shown that while moderate alcohol consumption may lead to a slightly higher risk of BC or BC recurrence, there is no impact on mortality. This is because today, thankfully most women survive breast cancer and go on to live long lives. But as we age, heart disease becomes a much greater concern. So in making our choices, we need to consider all our health risks - and when it comes to alcohol consumption, there is a bit of a "balancing act" (to use the words of Dr. Holmes).
Yes, there are thousands of articles that talk about BC risk and alcohol consumption. It's a favorite topic of journalists reporting on health news. Many of those articles just regurgitate the same info from the same study, but even at that, it's a fact that there have been quite a few studies that have shown a link between alcohol and BC. But rather that read newspaper writers' interpretations of BC and alcohol studies, I find more credibility in the opinions of doctors who specialize in breast cancer and who look at all of the studies and draw overall conclusions:
- From Dr. Susan Love: "If wine makes your dinners more pleasurable, you don't have to abandon it altogether. However, you may want to forgo the second glass. Four or five glasses a week shouldn't have a measurable effect on your risk of recurrence. Another thing to consider: Recent research indicates that alcohol appears to only increase breast cancer risk in women who have low folate levels. Folate is a B vitamin that is found in a variety of foods; it is also added to many vitamin and mineral supplements. In its synthetic form it is referred to as folic acid. So if you are someone who enjoys a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider taking a folate supplement or a multivitamin that includes folate. " http://www.dslrf.org/breastcancer/content.asp?CATID=60&L2=1&L3=6&L4=0&PID=&cid=596&sid=132
- From Dr. Michele Holmes (who specializes in lifestyle factors and BC - see the video link in my above post): "Kwan et al showed what we've always suspected: There's an increase in recurrence and breast cancer death associated with alcohol, mostly in postmenopausal women, and the impact may be worse in obese women. They did not find an increase total deaths, which pulls together some of the previous literature. Our message about alcohol to women with breast cancer may have to be as nuanced as our message to women who don't have breast cancer. Yes, alcohol may indeed increase the risk for recurrence and death from breast cancer. However, with the very high survival rates of women with early-stage breast cancer, many patients live long enough to get heart disease. Alcohol may not increase risk for total death because it is preventing women of dying from heart disease." http://www.hemonctoday.com/article.aspx?rid=51335
I'm not suggesting that heavy alcohol consumption is good for us - there have been dozens of studies that have shown that it's not. I'm not advocating that those who don't consume alcohol now start drinking - of course not. I'm not saying that those who choose to eliminate alcohol from their diets are making a bad choice - not at all. I'm also not suggesting that there is no link between breast cancer risk and alcohol - alcohol does slightly increase BC risk. But I'm fed up with all the scare tactics that lead women with BC to believe that they can never enjoy a drink again. We need to have perspective and look at alcohol in the context of the total picture of our BC risk, our overall health and our lifestyle/enjoyment of life. And in that context, for those of us who enjoy an occasional glass of wine with dinner, the science suggests that there is nothing wrong with that and for most of us, the negative health impact will be minimal, if there is any impact at all.
Dx 9/15/05, DCIS-MI, 6cm+ Gr3 DCIS w/IDC microinvasion, Stage I, 0/3 nodes, ER+/PR- “No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Edmund Burke