Wine, Fat Intake Linked to Breast Cancer
More Than 1.5 Glasses of Wine Daily Doubles Breast Cancer Risk, Study Shows
March 17, 2004 -- A new study continues to link drinking
alcohol -- especially wine -- to an increase in breast cancer risk.
Researchers in Sweden found that women who drank about two
to three glasses of wine a day were twice as likely to develop breast
cancer compared with women who drank less. One glass was equal to 5 ounces of
No significant association was found between breast cancer and
beer or liquor. But researchers conclude that this apparent lack of an
association was likely because of the fact that women more commonly reported
drinking wine than beer or liquor.
"It is much more socially acceptable for women to drink
wine so we believe the reporting was more accurate and that wine is a good
measure for total alcohol consumption," researcher Irene Mattisson, PhD,
But moderate amounts of alcohol a day -- up to one beer, one
5-ounce glass of wine, or just under 1 ounce of liquor -- seemed to have some
protective effect against breast cancer.
Along with colleagues from Malmo, Sweden's Lund University,
Mattisson followed almost 12,000 postmenopausal Swedish women for up to 10
years after the women completed detailed diet questionnaires and recorded their
food and alcohol consumption for one week. The findings were reported today in
an online edition of the International Journal of Cancer.
"Drinking wine is widely perceived to be OK or even healthy
because it is believed to reduce cardiovascular risk, but this may not be a
good message for women," Mattisson says. "It is clear that for women
who do drink, moderation is key."
Folic Acid May Be Protective
The Swedish study is just the latest to link alcohol
consumption and breast cancer. Two previous studies, which pooled data from
many others, showed that drinking one alcoholic beverage a day increases a
woman's breast cancer risk by 10% to 30%, American Cancer Society senior
epidemiologist Heather Spencer Feigelson, PhD, tells WebMD.
But three separate studies also show that drinking women can
mitigate this risk by taking a multivitamin containing folic acid every day,
"A 10% increase in risk is not a lot," she says.
"Certainly being overweight is a stronger risk factor for breast cancer, as
is the use of hormone replacement therapy."
Fat Increases Breast Cancer
In a widely reported study, published late last month,
Feigelson and ACS colleagues found that women who gain 20 to 30 pounds after
high school have a 40% increase in breast cancer risk. A higher risk was seen
among women who gained more weight.
Although studies have consistently linked body fat with breast
cancer risk, most previous studies have failed to show an independent link
between dietary fat intake and risk, Feigelson says. The Swedish study is among
the few to report such a link.
In Mattisson's study, women who ate the most fat increased
their risk of breast cancer by 35%.
Mattisson says women who ate large amounts of omega-6 fats,
such as those found in margarine, seemed to have the biggest increase in risk,
but no risk increase was seen among women eating large amounts of omega-3 fats,
such as those found in fish, such as salmon, and flaxseed.
"We did find a positive association between overall fat
intake and breast cancer, but the type of fat a woman eats does appear to be
important," she says.