How does alcohol relate to cancer risk?


Question from R Silverman: Is there a safe amount of alcohol that one can drink without increasing one's risk of breast cancer? Has alcohol been proven to increase one's risk of breast cancer?
Answers - Cyndi Thomson, Ph.D., R.D. It's not as straightforward as we thought. About five years ago, evidence suggested that even one alcoholic drink per week might be problematic. However, it's now more clear that the effects of alcohol on breast cancer risk are dependent on a woman's folate (a B vitamin) status. If a woman has normal to high folate levels in her blood, the negative effects of alcohol drop significantly. But if a woman's folate levels are low, even low levels of alcohol intake can increase risk.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. If you enjoy drinking alcohol and want to find out whether moderate amounts are okay for you, please ask your doctor to measure the folate levels in your blood.
Cyndi Thomson, Ph.D., R.D. Folate levels can be increased through diet or B vitamin supplements. Dietary sources of folate include green leafy vegetables, citrus, and fortified breakfast cereals, all of which should be part of a healthy diet.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. How does folate protect your body against alcohol?
Cyndi Thomson, Ph.D., R.D. I think the bigger issue is that alcohol intake can lower folate levels, and lower folate levels can increase your risk of cancer.

On Wednesday, January 19, 2005, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Nutrition and Weight. Cyndi Thomson, Ph.D., R.D. and Marisa Weiss M.D. answered your questions about nutrition and weight.

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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