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Research Suggests How Alcohol Increases Risk

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Earlier research has shown that drinking alcohol every day can increase breast cancer risk. It's not clear how or why alcohol affects risk. A study suggests that in mice, alcohol may promote the growth of a breast cancer by increasing the number of blood vessels that feed the breast cancer. The study also found that levels of a growth factor, VEGF, increased in the mice that were given alcohol. VEGF can stimulate the growth of new blood vessels.

One way cancers grow and thrive in people is by stimulating the growth of new blood vessels in the cancer. Doctors call this new blood vessel growth "angiogenesis." The targeted therapy medicine Avastin works by blocking angiogenesis. Avastin in combination with other medicines has shown promise in treating advanced breast cancer.

We really don't know exactly how much alcohol is safe for breast cancer survivors. But if you want to keep your risk of breast cancer as low as it can be, it makes sense to limit your alcohol consumption. You may even choose to stop drinking alcohol completely. If you do enjoy alcoholic beverages and plan to continue using them, try to have fewer than 5 alcoholic drinks a week. Significant alcohol use is also unhealthy for your liver. And alcohol's effects on the liver may contribute to the link between alcohol and breast cancer. Your liver helps regulate your estrogen levels. Limiting your alcohol may help your liver keep blood estrogen levels low, which also can lower breast cancer risk.

For more information on steps you can take to reduce your breast cancer risk, visit the breastcancer.org Lower Your Risk section.

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