The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) have recently released a new report detailing the association between alcohol intake and breast cancer risk in women, both pre and post menopause.
Cancer is extremely complex and for any type of cancer its cause can be a multitude of factors, genetics, gender, age, height and age at the onset of puberty and menopause, which all affect an individual’s own risk of cancer. And then exercise and dietary habits, which includes alcohol, can also influence cancer risk.
Alcohol intake is currently recommended to be no more than 14 units each week for men and women, which equates to about 9 small (125ml) glasses of wine, 6 pints of 3.6% lager, beer or cider or 14 single measures of a spirit. It’s advised that you include some alcohol free days during the week.
Ethanol is the form of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks and this report found that in post-menopausal women, for every 10g of ethanol consumed, their breast cancer risk increased by 9%, whilst in pre-menopausal women their risk increased by 5%.
10g of ethanol equates to:
- 80ml of wine at 12% strength
- One measure (25ml) of any 40% spirit
- Half a pint of beer, lager or cider at 3.5% strength
To put this into perspective it means that in a group of 100 women, 13 of them are likely to develop breast cancer anyway, and then if all 100 women consumed just 10g of ethanol everyday one extra woman may also develop breast cancer at some point in her lifetime.
However no one is saying that giving up alcohol is the answer, it is a firm part of the British culture, so just being aware of how much you are drinking and perhaps cutting down a little here and there will all help. Limiting alcohol to weekends only (while not binging), using a smaller glass or even just asking for a smaller measure whilst out and about will all help, and small changes like these can become your normal behaviour soon enough. Also while you may be more aware of the units in your favourite alcoholic beverages you may not be aware of the calorific content. Alcohol provides 7kcals per gram (these are 'empty' calories as they have no nutritional benefit) so be aware that drinking alcohol can lead to weight gain if you are not balancing your energy intake with output.
1. BBC News, 2017. 'Half a glass of wine every day' increases breast cancer risk. [Online] Accessed 23/05/2017.
2. World Cancer Research Fund, 2017. Diet, nutrition, physical activity and breast cancer. [Online] Accessed 23/05/2017.
3. Images sourced from www.drinkaware.co.uk