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After an exhausting nine-to-five job, pouring yourself a glass of wine (or two) can feel therapeutic. Somehow, the rich taste of liquor from Napa Valley can melt all of your stress and troubles away. If only we could spend after-hours like this every night because according to research, as little as one small glass of alcohol per day is enough to increase breast cancer risks.
Breast Cancer Prevalence
Not only is breast cancer the most common cancer among women, but it is also the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women across the world. In 2018, doctors diagnosed 2 million global cases of breast cancer, which comprises 25 percent of all cancer diagnoses in women. In the United States alone, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 268,600 new cases of malignant breast diseases will occur in 2019.
Alcohol and Breast Cancer Risk
A report from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), which was in collaboration with the World Cancer Research Fund, reviewed several risk factors for breast cancer: alcohol, diet, and weight. Their joint report includes clinical data on 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer collected from nearly 120 studies.
According to the researchers, drinking 10 grams of alcohol per day (the equivalent of a small glass of wine) increases the risk of premenopausal breast cancer by 5 percent. The same amount of alcohol can raise the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 9 percent. Note that the forewarned 10 grams of alcohol are less than the “standard” drink of 14 grams. The more you drink, the higher your risk becomes.
Combating Breast Cancer Risks with Exercise
According to the same research, exercise and a healthful diet can lower elevated breast cancer risks associated with alcohol consumption.
The report confirmed that being overweight, obese, or simply gaining more weight in adulthood increases a woman’s likelihood of postmenopausal breast cancer. Moderate physical activity decreased the risk of pre- and postmenopausal cancer in women who are overweight, regardless if they enjoy alcoholic beverages. Conversely, active postmenopausal women were 10 percent less prone to developing breast cancer in comparison with their least active counterparts. For premenopausal women, the drop in risk was 17 percent.
Lowering Risks with a Healthy Diet
In terms of diet, the report showed limited evidence supporting how non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, beans, and others) may reduce the risk of breast cancer. The report found a stronger link between diets high in calcium, dairy, carotenoids, and an overall decreased risk of breast cancer. Carotenoids are pigments produced by plants, which account for their yellow, red, or orange coloring. Foods with high amounts of carotenoid include carrots, pumpkins, spinach, apricots, and kale.
“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,” exclaims Anne McTiernan, a principal author of the report and an expert in cancer prevention at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.