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Alcohol increases the Risk of Breast Cancer, Whatever the Type of Drink

A US study of more than 70,000 women, over two decades, has concluded that the type of alcohol drunk, whether wine, beer or spirits (liquor), has no impact on the risk of breast cancer. It is the alcohol itself, and the quantity consumed, that increases the risk.

An important question addressed by this study is whether different types of drink have different risks, as wine is often thought of as ‘healthier’ due mainly to ingredients other than alcohol. All types of drink, wine, beer and spirits, increased the risk of breast cancer equally.

The second major contribution of this study is to evaluate how much the risk is increased by different amounts of alcohol. Relative to light drinkers (those who drank less that one drink* a day, on average), moderate drinkers (one to two drinks a day) increased their risk of breast cancer by 10% and heavy drinkers (three or more drinks a day) increased their risk by 30%.

*A standard US drink contains 0.6 ounces, or 14g of alcohol, which is almost 2 UK units (1 UK unit = 8g of alcohol). A pint of beer and a 175ml glass of wine both contain approx. 2 units, depending on the strength of the beer or wine.

Source: Li, Y., Baer, D., Friedman, G.D., Udaltsova, N., & Klatsky, A.L. “Wine, liquor, beer, and risk of breast cancer” presented at ECCO 14, the European Cancer Conference, and published in European Journal of Cancer Supplements, Vol 5 No 4, Page 161