Women drinking just one alcoholic drink a day are increasing their risk of breast cancer by 5 per cent, according to a review of research on alcohol and breast cancer.
Researchers from the University of Heidelberg in Germany and the University of Milan in Italy analysed 113 research papers.
They found that just one drink a day can increase the risk of breast cancer by 5 per cent. Women drinking ‘heavily’ by having more than three or more drinks a day are up to 50 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who abstain.
The research suggests that for every 200 women, 20 are expected to develop breast cancer in their lifetime. If they all drank 1.5 units every day an extra one woman would develop cancer because of alcohol.
The link between breast cancer and alcohol is already known, but until now it has not been clear if there is an increased risk with low levels of consumption. But the new study, published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, could mean thousands of cases of breast cancer in Britain each year are caused by alcohol.
One drink was defined as 10 to 12 grams of ethanol, the equivalent of up to 1.5 UK units, or one 125ml glass of red wine or a pint of lager. Each 10g of alcohol per day was linked to a ten to 13 per cent increased risk of cancer.
It is thought alcohol affects the female hormone oestrogen which can fuel certain forms of breast cancer.
Lead author Prof Helmut Seitz wrote: "Women at an elevated risk for breast cancer such as those with a positive family history, or conditions associated with an increased breast cancer risk should avoid alcohol or consume alcohol only occasionally."
Sarah Williams, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Women can help reduce their risk of breast cancer by reducing the amount of alcohol they drink, keeping a healthy weight, and being physically active.”
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