Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Alcohol Increases Breast Cancer Risk

30% More Breast Cancer With More Than 3 Daily Drinks of Wine, Beer, or Spirits
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 27, 2007 - Whatever your pleasure -- beer, wine, or spirits -- more than three daily drinks ups your risk of breast cancer by 30%.

That's the same increase in breast cancer risk you'd get from smoking a pack of cigarettes every day, find Kaiser Permanente researchers Yan Li, MD, PhD, and colleagues.

Studies consistently find that heavy drinking -- more than three drinks a day -- increases breast cancer risk. But Li and colleagues previously found that red wine has a number of health benefits. Might it also be less risky for breast cancer?

"It doesn't matter if you drink red wine or white wine. If you are a heavy drinker -- more than three drinks a day -- you will have an additional 30% risk of breast cancer," Li tells WebMD.

Does the type of beverage make any difference at all?

"We found it does not make much of a difference whether a woman drinks beer, wine, or liquor: It is the alcohol itself," Li says.

Li and colleagues looked at data in on more than 70,000 women in the Kaiser Permanente database. The women supplied information on themselves and on their drinking habits during doctor visits from 1978 through 1985. The researchers then looked at whether the women had breast cancer by 2004.

Just over 2,800 of the women did get breast cancer. Women who drank one or two drinks a day had a 10% higher chance of breast cancer than women who drank less than a drink a day. But it tookmore than three drinks a day to increase that risk to 30%.

Shumin Zhang, MD, ScD, associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, has also found that frequent drinking raises a woman's risk of breast cancer. She did not participate in the Li study.

"Many studies have reported an association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk in women," Zhang tells WebMD. "The current findings are generally consistent with previous research."

Zhang notes that while alcohol is a definite breast cancer risk, more studies are needed to confirm the link between cigarette smoking and breast cancer.

Li says that it's important for women who drink to be aware of the risks as well as the benefits. Recent studies have linked alcohol consumption to a lower risk of heart disease. Other studies disagree. Whatever the heart benefit, Li says, heavy drinking comes with a breast cancer risk.

Even for people who are not alcoholics, drinking several drinks a day is bad for health.

Li reported the findings in a presentation to the European Cancer Conference, held Sept. 23-27 in Barcelona, Spain.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow