Alcohol plays a very big part in our culture and society. Since the beginning of time, it has been a key part of big and small social gatherings, celebrations, and other festivities. Unfortunately, not all will benefit from the good things that it could bring. It also has been associated with many negative things. Drinking too much alcohol has also brought many negative effects like illogical fights, lost inhibitions, and many more. Cancer patients, with their weakened bodies and immunity, are susceptible to almost all environmental factors. They are among the individuals who should take extra caution and care especially when drinking alcoholic beverages. For this and many other important reasons, it is quite helpful and important for us to take a closer look and assess the link between alcohol and breast cancer recurrence.
Conflicting Data About Alcohol Intake and the Risk of Cancer
TV shows, magazines, and other forms of media have portrayed alcohol as something good as long as taken in moderation. Drinking a glass of wine a day or having no more than a couple of drinks a week are just a few of the many modified accounts showing how alcohol consumption is generally accepted. On the contrary, doctors have somehow recommended the complete elimination of alcohol in patients suffering from major ailments such as cancer. With these two conflicting sides, it begs the question of which side are we really to follow.
Drinking alcoholic beverages has been associated with a higher risk of developing certain kinds of diseases. On the contrary, such practice has been said to protect against certain medical disorders. For instance, men who drink two glasses of alcohol and women who drink at least a glass a day may have decreased their heart disease risk. However, the link between the consumption of alcoholic beverages and the risk of developing breast cancer is not quite clear.
Exploring the Truth About Alcohol and Breast Cancer Recurrence
The body’s levels of estrogen are believed to increase when women drink alcohol. According to health experts, this connection may prove that alcohol may promote the risk of cancers that are generally estrogen-sensitive. One of these is estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. This is classified as the most common form of cancer affecting the breasts. Outside this connection, alcohol is considered a cancer-causing agent or carcinogenic. Let’s take a closer look about
The term ‘alcohol’ applies to hard liquor, beer, and wine. The link discussed here is not between the kind of alcoholic beverage you drink and cancer, but with alcohol in its general form and breast cancer. According to some early clinical trials, the recurrence risk may go up if a woman drinks three or more glasses of alcohol weekly. This is far lower than the recommended single glass of alcoholic drink for women per day. These studies mainly involved breast cancer survivors and are particularly focused on estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.
We should take into consideration that a single drink can be smaller than what many people think. One drink is one and a half ounces of hard liquor, 12 ounces of beer, or five ounces of wine. A usual large glass of wine is equivalent to two servings as it contains around 8 to 10 ounces.
In some research, the moderate consumption of alcohol has increased the survival rate following the diagnosis of breast cancer. You may want to reconsider your decision to completely stop the intake of alcohol after these findings. The picture becomes confusing because of these observational studies. Although the cause and effect cannot be proved by themselves, it is good to consider them still for us to have a clearer and better picture.
The findings suggest that the harmful or protective effect of alcohol is very small. Also, the impact is likely to be greater for obese and overweight women if alcohol turns out to boost the recurrence risk of breast cancer.
You might want to just enjoy alcohol once a week or save it for special events if you are significantly overweight. The same holds for individuals who have high breast cancer risk because of genetic factors. This applies to individuals with breast cancer history as well. If it is not hard for you to avoid alcohol completely, then just avoid it entirely. If you have additional concerns or questions, you can always check things out with your dietitian or doctor.
Factors Which May Influence Cancer Recurrence Other Than Alcohol
Alcohol is not the only factor that may influence cancer recurrence. Exercising regularly can have a very positive effect on your body. Also beneficial is the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Based on research, the recurrence risk of breast cancer dropped when patients combined regular exercise with five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
It is good to keep in perspective that doctors and other health care providers rarely tell women that they have a higher breast cancer recurrence risk if they do not exercise. However, they do not hesitate to tell women not to consume alcohol.
Mixed Findings on Breast Cancer Recurrence and Alcohol
Based on certain findings, the risk of recurrence and death from breast cancer increased when the survivors of breast cancer drank alcohol following diagnosis. On the contrary, some studies said that there is no difference in breast cancer mortality or recurrence between non-drinkers and those who consume alcohol moderately.
The mixed results may have been caused by the idea that moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages has certain health benefits. These include the decreased risks of overall mortality, high blood pressure, and heart disease. When done excessively, alcohol drinking has only health risks and zero health benefits.
Cancer Recurrence and Alcohol Consumption: “Cancer Treatment Reviews” Journal Article
Published in 2016, the “Cancer Treatment Reviews” journal posted an article on the link between the consumption of alcohol and the onset of new cancer or cancer recurrence following the diagnosis of breast cancer. Although there was no correlation in some studies, the combined results proved that there is a small link between breast cancer recurrence and alcohol intake.
Also, the article also said that the effect of alcohol is greater on obese women and women after menopause. Some of the studies centered on new breast cancers cited zero impact of alcohol.
It is hard to make a general conclusion from these findings but the correlation between higher breast cancer recurrence risk and alcohol is undeniable. The correlation was not evident in those who less frequently drank alcohol.
Based on these findings, we can say that drinking two units of alcohol or a glass of wine are likely safe to have every three days. This amount is not associated with a higher risk of recurrent or new breast cancer. Just to be extra sure, continue making regular follow-ups and mammograms.