Alcohol safe for triple-negative patients?


Question from Marc: I have read that alcoholic beverages are worse for estrogen-receptor-positive patients than estrogen-receptor-negative patients. Is this true? How much alcohol can triple-negative breast cancer patients safely consume?
Answers - Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. Alcohol has been listed as a carcinogen and can have significantly negative effects on women who consume too much alcohol. Alcohol has its greatest effects in inhibiting the liver's ability to clear certain substances from the body. The studies have shown that postmenopausal women, who by virtue of being postmenopausal have a higher incidence of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers, are at greatest risk for consuming excess amounts of alcohol. Women who consume 1/2 glass of wine per day in the postmenopausal period increase their risk of developing a breast cancer by 6%. Women who consume 2-3 glasses of alcohol per day increase their risk of developing breast cancer by close to 40%. There is definitely a direct relationship between the amount of alcohol consumed and the increased risk of breast cancer. In the estrogen-receptor-negative patients, there has not been such a direct correlation but looking at the overall detrimental effects of excess alcohol consumption, this is one lifestyle modification that can benefit women in multiple ways. I have been asked by women why their cardiologist recommends they drink a glass of red wine per day, when I recommend moderation in alcohol consumption. The effects on cholesterol in the body that may be beneficial from the red wine need to be weighed carefully by each individual woman, as cardiac disease is very prominent and also a major risk factor for premature death in women. Therefore, this is a subject that should be specifically discussed with an individual patient and their physician team in order to make an educated choice as to what amount of alcohol is deemed to be safe for that woman. Alcohol in excess should be considered an increased risk factor in the development of breast cancer in the average postmenopausal woman.

Editor's Note: In 2011, a Journal of the American Medical Association study reaffirmed the link between alcohol and the development of breast cancer: Even as few as two or three drinks a week raises breast cancer risk. A 2009 study reported at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium found that women who drank three or more alcoholic drinks per week were 34% more likely to have a recurrence and 51% more likely to die from breast cancer compared to women who didn't drink.

On Wednesday, July 16, 2008 our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Triple-Negative Breast CancerGeorge Sledge, M.D. and Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answered your questions about triple-negative breast cancer and its treatment.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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