Many women enjoy wine with dinner. An occasional glass is widely cited as heart-healthy, but a new study finds that as few as three glasses of wine a week can raise the risk for breast cancer.
"That risk was very small but was statistically significant," says Dr. Wendy Chen.
Dr. Chen and colleagues at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston studied nearly 30 years’ worth of data on more than 100,000 women.
Those who averaged three to six alcoholic beverages a week throughout their adult lives had a 15-percent higher risk of developing breast cancer. Alcohol's effect on estrogen may be the link.
"When you look at people who consume alcohol regularly their blood estrogen levels are higher on average than women who do not consume alcohol," explains Dr. Chen.
Because the risk for breast cancer rises with age, experts say older women may want to talk with their doctor about cutting back on their drinking habits. When you consider all of the research showing moderate intake of wine can protect against cardiovascular disease, it begs the question: Should consumers stop consuming alcohol or not?
"For any individual woman, that decision may be different depending on her own family history and other risk factors that she has for breast cancer and heart disease," Dr. Chen says.
Until more research is done you may be able to continue toasting to your health. The risk was found to be the same for all types of alcohol: Wine, beer and liquor.