Alcohol consumption is linked to tens of thousands of cases of breast cancer in the US and Europe each year. There is a link provided by a new study, which shows a direct link between alcohol, estrogen and a cancer-causing gene. Research, by cancer biologist Chin-Yo Lin from the University of Houston, Texas has been published in PLOS One.
The team reported that more than 230,000 women in the US will develop breast cancer this year and is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for women. That is extremely alarming. A modifiable risk factor for breast cancer development is alcohol consumption, but 50% of those women with breast cancer drink at least some alcohol.
Researchers wanted to investigate alcohol’s effects on growth factor and estrogen signaling and gene regulatory networks involved in clinical outcomes in breast cancer patients. They also investigated the effects of alcohol on Tamoxifen response and the role that alcohol-regulated genes play in breast cancer. Tamoxifen is a medication that is used to treat breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. It was found that alcohol weakens the ability of Tamoxifen to suppress cancer cell growth.
They were able to establish that alcohol increases estrogen-induced cell proliferation. Alcohol also promotes expression of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF, even in the absence of estrogen, and enhances estrogen’s effects, increasing the risk of breast cancer.
It is Lin’s hope that these and also any future findings will provide information and motivation to promote healthy behavioral choices, as well as potential targets for chemoprevention strategies to ultimately decrease these breast cancer incidents and deaths. The results of this study are also relevant for women undergoing hormone replacement therapy for menopause as alcohol can affect the hormones women take to manage their symptoms.
Lin says they want to provide women, in general, with more information and insight to be better able to balance their consumption of alcoholic beverages with the potential health risks. This could modify their behavior and habits accordingly. Every woman needs to take action in learning as much about cancer as possible in making informative and important decisions concerning their individual illnesses. Research is valuable and will help every breast cancer patient make these critical decisions in their fight against this life altering disease.
–Dr Fredda Branyon