Additionally, the risk increases when a woman begins drinking alcohol earlier in life and continues later in her adult life.
Having three to six alcoholic drinks per week raised a woman’s breast cancer risk by 15 percent, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Alcohol during early adult life is independently associated with breast cancer risk in addition to alcohol consumption later in adult life,” said Dr. Wendy Chen of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in a video news release.
Chen and other researchers followed more than 100,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. They assessed their drinking habits eight times between 1980 and 2008.
While alcohol consumption may be associated with a risk for breast cancer, women may also lower their risk by changing their drinking habits, Chen said. For that to work, changes in drinking patterns would need to be consistent over time and not for one period of time such as six months or a year.
Despite the study’s results, researchers noted that drinking alcohol may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
“That will need to be balanced against any risk for breast cancer,” Chen said.
Sources: The JAMA Report, American Medical Association
+ Learn about Nurse Navigators
+ Read about the Benefits of Stereotactic Biopsies