Alcohol and breast cancer


Last week at the Alcohol Awareness Conference Balance North East shared their campaign for this year which you can see above and which I really like.

To coincide with the start of Alcohol Awareness Week, the campaign will launch on the region’s airwaves with a radio advert featuring the North East TV star.
In the advert, Charlie Hardwick says: “I’m a worldly woman and I’d like to think I’ve gained a bit of knowledge in my time. But I’ll tell you something, I didn’t know about the proven links between alcohol and breast cancer. Until now.
“The more you drink the more you increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Now there aren’t many ways we can reduce our risk. But limiting the amount we drink is one. And that made me think twice.
“I just thought, ‘isn’t this something women should know about?’ Which is why I support this message from Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Balance.”
One in eight women develop breast cancer in their lifetime but the individual level of risk varies from person to person depending on a number of factors such as genes, lifestyle and environment. Drinking alcohol is one of the few contributing factors that can be changed to help reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease.
Studies have shown that: 
  • In a group of 100 women who do not drink, around 11 are likely develop breast cancer during their life. 
  • In a group of 100 women who drink two units a day – which is the equivalent of a standard glass of wine – about 14 will develop breast cancer. 
  • In a group of 100 women who drink four units a day – the equivalent of a large glass of wine and a single measure of spirits – about 16 will develop breast cancer.

The conference also hosted the speaker Professor Linda Bauld who shared research data from Cancer Research UK about breast cancer and alcohol.

She talked about:

  1. How alcohol damages your DNA
  2. Is a solvent for tobacco so increases the risk if you drink and smoke
  3. How alcohol raises the level of oestrogen in the body
  4. Alcohol is a known carcinogenic toxin

Regularly drinking even small amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer. A review of the evidence in 2012 concluded that having 1 drink a day (around 1.5 units) could increase the risk of breast cancer by 5%. And the risk increases the more a woman drinks, several studies have found that each additional 10g of alcohol drunk a day increases the risk of breast cancer by about 7 – 12% (10g of alcohol is equivalent to 1.25 units) (research)

The impact of alcohol on our health needs to be more widely discussed otherwise how can we try to protect ourselves against the cancer risk?

13 thoughts on “Alcohol and breast cancer

  1. You know Lucy I had breast cancer at 30 years – and that was 15 years ago now. I believe I received excellent care but I remember at the time asking why? I was told it was just bad luck. The link with alcohol was never mentioned. After the all clear I returned to my old ways and up until the last 15 months have continued to drink heavily. Kind of scary x

    1. Kim I’m so sorry to hear you had to experience breast cancer at such a young age but happy that you have been clear for 15 years. It is sad and scary that this isn’t mentioned. Prof Bauld who spoke for Cancer Research UK was very clear about the evidence based link and I got the feeling that they were going to talk a great deal about this in the future even if the NHS isn’t, so that’s good news 🙂 x

    1. Me too feeling, who knew that the not meant sarcastically at all “harmless” glass of wine or two each evening was potentially turning us into a cancer ticking time bomb 🙁

  2. I find myself repeating the “why isn’t alcohol use treated like tobacco use” question: here is proof that increased alcohol use increases the risk of breast cancer…why aren’t we hearing more about it? This does sound like a great campaign. xx

    1. All good questions Lori and I don’t have the answer. The only guess I can make is that the drinks industry is trying to suppress this message. How can I say that? Because they did the same with a tv advert campaign that ran in the UK this time last year which they tried to get banned arguing that highlighting the link between alcohol and cancer was misleading and irresponsible. Yes you read that right the drinks industry felt that linking alcohol and cancer was misleading and irresponsible and here’s the post where I talked about it: Interestingly it’s the same organisation that produced the breast cancer advert in today’s post – they are doing great things here 🙂 xx

      1. The drinks industry is powerful indeed, and I’m sure they are in the pockets of our lawmakers. So frustrating! xx

  3. Just read a report today that the states (I live in US) rely on alcohol to keep taxes down. The states need the money from alcohol sales and are happy when new distilleries are built.
    The industry does not want any news about the “bad” effects.
    The industry has so much lobbying power here.

  4. Yup. Lobbyists. The power of the alcohol industry is shocking.
    I knew about this, but it wasn’t quite enough to get me to quit. Somewhere I read it was downplayed because people felt it was blaming women for causing their own breast cancer.

    Those statistics are pretty powerful.

    1. Anne – I knew that smoking caused cancer for a long time before I stopped (I’m a nurse FFS I can’t stick my head in the sand on this one, it was pure fingers in ears stuff!) but yes there are many who if they knew the statistics might not put their fingers in their ears. I don’t get the blaming women reasoning (not aimed at you but at the ether really!) – would you blame a man for giving himself lung cancer if he smoked?

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