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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Wine Won’t Cut Breast Cancer Risk

White or Red Wine: Neither Shown to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk; Drinking in Excess Raises Risk, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 9, 2009 -- Red or white wine with dinner? A new study suggests a woman’s wine choice should be based on personal preference rather than any hope that a wine’s color may affect its breast cancer-fighting ability.

"We found no difference between red or white wine in relation to breast cancer risk. Neither appears to have any benefits," researcher Polly Newcomb, PhD, MPH, head of the Cancer Prevention Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, says in a news release.

"If a woman drinks, she should do so in moderation -- no more than one drink a day. And if a woman chooses red wine, she should do so because she likes the taste, not because she thinks it may reduce her risk of breast cancer."

In fact, researchers found that women who drank 14 or more alcoholic drinks per week, regardless of type (beer, wine, or liquor), had a 24% higher risk of breast cancer than non-drinkers.

Wine Color Irrelevant to Breast Cancer Risk

Newcomb says there was reason to suspect that red wine might have beneficial effects in preventing breast cancer based on previous studies on red wine's positive effects on heart disease and prostate cancer risk.

"We were interested in teasing out red wine's effects on breast cancer risk,” Newcomb says. "The general evidence is that alcohol consumption overall increases breast cancer risk, but the other studies made us wonder whether red wine might in fact have some positive value."

In the study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, researchers interviewed 6,327 women with breast cancer and 7,558 age-matched healthy women about their drinking habits. Equal proportions of women reported drinking white and red wine in both groups.

After controlling for other known breast cancer risk factors, such as family history, researchers found that wine drinking was not associated with any higher or lower risk of breast cancer, regardless of whether the wine was red or white.

However, women who drank more alcoholic drinks in general (14 or more per week), especially liquor, had a higher risk of breast cancer.

Researchers say this was one of the largest studies of its kind to examine the relationship between wine and breast cancer, and the results suggest neither red nor white wine is related to breast cancer.

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