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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Alcohol and Breast Cancer Risk

Drinking as little as half a glass of wine a day may raise a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, a new study shows.

Assessing Breast Cancer Risk

The American Cancer Society lists alcohol as a risk factor for breast cancer. It clearly states that having a drink or more a day is a risk factor for the disease. One standard drink a day is defined as moderation for women.

But this is the first study to show that even a half glass a day is associated with "a slight but definite increase in risk," says Len Lichtenfeld, MD, the society's deputy chief medical officer.

So what should a woman do with all this new information?

First of all, don't fret if you've indulged in a glass of wine or beer now and then, Chen says. At the same time, don't think that abstaining all week only to start partying come happy hour on Friday is going to help, Chen tells WebMD. "It's the average amount the counts -- a glass a day for seven days carries the same risk as seven glasses on one day, once a week."

Also, don't make the mistake of thinking that becoming a teetotaler means you'll lower your risk of the disease, Lichtenfeld says.

The new findings "have to be looked at as one more piece of information among many risk factors," he tells WebMD. "In the big scheme of things; [alcohol] is a small issue" compared with something such as family history."

A sure bet: Follow a healthy lifestyle, with a good diet, exercise, and avoidance of smoking and heavy drinking, Lichtenfeld says.

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