1 alcoholic drink per day increases breast cancer risk, scientists claim

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Just one glass of alcoholic drink per day is enough to increase breast cancer risk in women, before and after menopause, according to a new report from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), published Tuesday, May 23. Image via AFP RelaxNews/halfbottle / Istock.com

For women who drink the equivalent of one small glass of wine or beer per day (around 10 grams of alcohol) pre-menopausal breast cancer risk increases by 5 percent and post-menopausal breast cancer risk increases by 9 percent, according to a major new report from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

The findings are based on an analysis of 119 studies, including data on 12 million women and 260,000 breast cancer cases.

The report also highlighted the importance of exercise in minimizing the risk of developing breast cancer both for pre- and post-menopausal women. Pre-menopausal women who were the most physically active, taking part in vigorous activities like running and fast biking, had a 17 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to the least active women. For post-menopausal women, the risk was reduced by 10 percent.

Moderate physical activity, such as walking and gardening, was also linked to a 13 percent reduced risk when comparing the most and least active women, the report concluded.

Moreover, women who are overweight or obese, and those with greater adult weight gain, were found to be at greater risk of developing breast cancer after menopause, according to the findings. Mothers who breastfeed, however, were found to have a lower breast cancer risk.

Another risk factor linked to lifestyle could be diet. Dietary changes may, therefore, help reduce breast cancer risk. The report found limited evidence suggesting that foods high in calcium (green vegetables, dried fruits, sesame, dairy products) and fruit and vegetables high in carotenoids (bell peppers, carrots, apricots, broccoli, spinach) could have a protective effect against some types of breast cancers, in particular estrogen-receptor (ER) negative breast cancers—a less common but more challenging kind of tumor to treat.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the US, with over 252,000 new cases estimated this year. AICR estimates that one in three breast cancer cases in the US could be prevented if women did not drink alcohol, were physically active and maintained a healthy weight. KI

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