Alcohol consumption may increase breast cancer risk

A cancer-causing gene triggered by alcohol may higher the risk of breast cancer. A recent study showed that consumption of alcohol boosts the actions of estrogen driving the growth of breast cancer cells.

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The study, led by cancer biologist Chin-Yo Lin from the University of Houston in Texas, is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

It is estimated that more than 230,000 women in the US will develop breast cancer this year, according to researcher and about 50% of women with breast cancer drink at least some alcohol; and this is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for women. Also, researchers believe that drinking may higher the risk of disease recurrence in women with early stage breast cancer.

The study’s objective was to determine how alcohol can affect the actions of estrogen in breast cancer cells. Findings showed that alcohol consumption promotes sustained expression of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF (mutations found in a wide range of cancers), even in the absence of estrogen, which enhance the effects of estrogen as a result and increases the risk of breast cancer. Alcohol also diminishes the effects of the commonly used breast cancer drug Tamoxifen on suppressing the rapid growth of cancer cells.

Researchers said they are hopeful that their findings can be used in cancer prevention. The findings also hold important implications for women who are undergoing hormone replacement therapy for menopause since alcohol can disrupt the actions of the hormones taken to handle symptoms.

Lin also added that with these findings, the study may help college-age women, as they are often involved in heavy or binge drinking environments.

Lin says he and his team “hope these and future findings will provide information and motivation to promote healthy behavioral choices, as well as potential targets for chemoprevention strategies to ultimately decrease breast cancer incidents and deaths within the next decade.”

“We want to provide women, in general, with more information and insight to be better able to balance their consumption of alcoholic beverages with the potential health risks, including cancer patients who may want to take into consideration the potential detrimental effects alcohol consumption might have on treatments and modify their behavior and habits accordingly,” Lin added.

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