Just one alcoholic drink a day can increase breast cancer risk

23 May 2017: Drinking just one alcoholic drink a day can increase breast cancer risk, a new report by World Cancer Research Fund has revealed[1].

The report found strong evidence that drinking just the equivalent of a small glass of wine or half a pint of beer a day (about 10g alcohol content), could increase your pre-menopausal breast cancer risk by 5% and your post-menopausal breast cancer risk by 9%.

World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about 12,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented in the UK each year if nobody drank alcohol.[2]

This robust scientific report evaluated all of the research worldwide on how diet, weight and exercise affect breast cancer risk. It also found that vigorous exercise that increases heart rate such as cycling, swimming or running can decrease the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer and both moderate exercise, such as walking, and vigorous exercise can decrease the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.

In addition the report showed that being overweight or obese increases the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer, the most common type of breast cancer. Being overweight or obese is also linked to several other cancers, including liver, pancreatic and bowel cancers.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK with over 55,000 new cases each year.[3] It is responsible for more than half a million deaths worldwide each year.[4]

The UK government recommends drinking no more than 14 units a week equivalent to 7 drinks a week, spread across at least 3 days.

Dr Rachel Thompson, Head of Research Interpretation at World Cancer Research Fund, said:

“To help prevent breast cancer, one of the most important steps women can take is to not drink alcohol or reduce the amount of alcohol they drink.

“Maintaining a healthy weight and getting enough exercise are also important for preventing breast cancer.

“It may be the most common cancer in women worldwide, but our evidence shows that there are steps that women can take to significantly reduce their breast cancer risk.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) said:

“Only 1 in 10 people are aware of the link between alcohol and cancer, and with the evidence on breast cancer and alcohol being so strong, it is vital that consumers are aware of this fact.

“People have a right to know about the risks associated with alcohol, which is why the AHA is calling for specific health warnings on alcohol labels and sustained, government-backed campaigns warning people of the risks. In addition, policymakers should take action to reduce the overall amount of alcohol people drink, which would reduce the burden of breast cancer in the UK. Price-based measures, such as minimum unit pricing, would be the most effective at doing this.”

[1]http://www.wcrf.org/int/research-we-fund/continuous-update-project-findings-reports/breast-cancer

[2]https://www.wcrf-uk.org/uk/preventing-cancer/what-can-increase-your-risk-cancer/alcohol-and-cancer-risk

[3] https://www.wcrf-uk.org/uk/preventing-cancer/cancer-preventability-statistics/breast-cancer

[4] http://globocan.iarc.fr/Pages/fact_sheets_cancer.aspx