A very large study found that having 1 or 2 small alcoholic drinks per day increased the risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
More than 184,000 women participated in the study. Women who drank 1 or 2 small drinks each day were 32% more likely to be diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer than women who didn't drink. Women who had 3 or more drinks each day were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer than women who didn't drink.
The higher breast cancer risk was seen no matter what kind of alcoholic drink the women had.
Researchers don't completely understand why drinking alcohol seems to increase breast cancer risk. In this study, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer was the type of disease linked to drinking alcohol. Estrogen can cause hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer to grow. Alcohol can increase the amount of estrogen a woman has in her body. This increase in estrogen may be part of the reason why there is a link between drinking alcohol and breast cancer risk.
The results of this study agree with many other large studies that have linked alcohol to breast cancer risk. If you want to do everything you can to lower your risk of breast cancer (or breast cancer coming back if you've been diagnosed) limiting your drinking makes sense. If you enjoy alcoholic beverages and plan to continue drinking, try to have fewer than 5 alcoholic drinks per week.
Drinking alcohol regularly is a habit that often starts in early adulthood. So you also might want to talk to your daughters, granddaughters, and other young women in your life about the link between alcohol and breast cancer risk.
To learn more about how you can make your risk of breast cancer as low as it can be, visit the breastcancer.org Lower Your Risk section.