One glass of wine a day increases breast cancer risk

Worldwide research study identifies link but also says vigorous exercise can make a difference

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Just one alcoholic drink a day increases the risk of breast cancer but vigorous exercise such as running or cycling can reduce the risk.

The report from the US said that drinking the equivalent of a small glass of wine or beer a day (about 10g alcohol) increased pre-menopausal breast cancer risk by 5% and post-menopausal breast cancer risk by 9%.

But the report by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) confirmed the link between exercise and reduced cancer risk, saying pre-menopausal women who were the most active had a 17% lower risk and post-menopausal women had a 10% lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who were the least active.

Prof Anne McTiernan, lead author of the report, said “the evidence is clear: Having a physically active lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight throughout life and limiting alcohol – these are all steps women can take to lower their risk.”

The report, by the AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund, collated research worldwide from 119 studies with data on 12million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer.

Prof McTiernan said the “comprehensive and up-to-date report” would end the confusion “with single studies when the findings get swept back and forth”.

The report also found some limited evidence of links between diet and breast cancer risk, saying that non-starchy vegetables lower risk for oestrogen-receptor negative breast cancers while diets high in calcium and foods containing carotenoids also lower risk of some breast cancers.

Prof McTiernan said the links were “intriguing but more research is needed”.

She added: “Women may get some benefit from including more non-starchy vegetables with high variety, including foods that contain carotenoids. That can also help avoid the common 1 to 2lb women are gaining every year, which is key for lowering cancer risk.”

Alice Bender, AICR’s head of nutrition programmes, said it was good news that all women can take steps to lower their breast cancer risk.

“Wherever you are with physical activity, try to nudge it up a bit, either a little longer or a little harder. Make simple food shifts to boost protection – substitute veggies like carrots, bell peppers or green salad for chips and crackers and if you drink alcohol, stick to a single drink or less.”

She added: “There are no guarantees when it comes to cancer, but it’s empowering to know you can do something to lower your risk.”

  • A standard drink in the US is 14g of alcohol while it is in France is 10g (12.5cl of wine, 25cl of beer, 6cl of pastis) and 8g is a ‘unit of alcohol’ in the UK.

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