Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Why alcohol abuse is more dangerous for women

Every year, October is observed as the Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States with the objective of making people conscious about the need for early detection, palliative care and prevention strategies.

While age, obesity, genes and family history are some of the common causes of breast cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer considers alcohol as a carcinogenic substance. Every 10g or 1 drink of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer by 7-10% among adult women. This link is prevalent in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women. The risk increases by 4-15% with even light alcohol intake (less than 1 drink/day). In America, nearly 4-10% cases of breast cancer are attributed to alcohol consumption leading to 9000 to 23,000 novel cases of breast cancer cases every year.

The breast tissue is most susceptible to developing neoplastic changes between menarche and first pregnancy as alcohol exposure during this phase can affect a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. Consumption of alcohol during puberty can bring out morphologic modifications in the mouse mammary glands, increasing the risk of developing breast cancer at a later stage. Alcohol intake before pregnancy is linked to breast cancer in dose-dependent fashion. Additionally, alcohol intake during adolescence and early adulthood is associated with an increased risk of developing proliferative benign breast disease as compared to drinking in later years.


Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased production of circulating estrogens in the premenopausal and postmenopausal women, which are the established risk factors for developing breast cancer. Alcohol influences the estrogen receptor-dependent pathways and is strongly connected with hormone receptor positive breast tumors. Carcinogenic metabolites of alcohol play a crucial role in promoting carcinogenesis as the main alcohol metabolism enzymes are already present in normal human breast tissue. Additional mechanisms including epithelial-mesenchymal transition, folate metabolism, cellular migration, matrix metalloproteases and role of fibronectin have also been proposed.

Steps that help quit alcohol

Since drinking even small quantity of alcohol can expose a woman to the risk of developing cancer, it is important to quit it at the earliest. Some of the ways by which one can avoid drinking are:

  • Remove all the alcoholic beverages and glassware from home and office.
  • Inform family members and colleagues about the aim of quitting alcohol and ask for support.
  • Foster friendships with sober friends.
  • Attend sober parties or decline invitations to gatherings where alcohol is likely to be served.
  • Switch to alternate and healthy drinks.
  • Seek professional help if everything else fails.

Road to recovery

Alcohol consumption is prevalent across all communities especially, among women in countries with higher economic growth. Besides a host of physical and psychological health issues, drinking degrades the overall quality of life. A person may indulge in risky behavior and ideate about suicide in extreme circumstances. Moreover, when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, it can push her into the abyss of depression as she struggles to cope with her condition.

Quitting alcohol is the only solution to live a healthy life. But sometimes, despite knowing the pros and cons, we are not able to embrace sobriety and walk on the path of recovery. It becomes inevitable to seek professional support under the circumstance.

If you or your loved one is battling alcohol addiction-related problems, it is time to open up. The Florida Alcohol Addiction Helpline can assist you or your loved one in getting appropriate alcohol addiction treatment in Florida. Call at our 24/7 helpline 866-220-5381 or chat online with one of our treatment specialists to know more about various alcohol rehabilitation centers in Florida where recovery is facilitated in a safe and compassionate environment.

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