14 Sep 2017

Getting The Facts Straight – Alcohol And Breast Cancer

Frustratingly, we’re often presented with conflicting information about alcohol.

We’re usually being told red wine is good for the heart, or that particular spirits have anti-ageing or “magical” healing properties but according to Cancer Council Victoria, alcohol consumption is estimated to be responsible for approximately 3% of the new cancers (almost 3,500 cases) seen in Australia each year.

What is the truth when it comes to alcohol and cancer?

It’s a little known fact that alcohol consumption is actually linked to multiple forms of cancer, including breast cancer.

According to new Australian research by Cancer Council Victoria, just one standard drink of alcohol a day could be enough to increase the risk of reoccurrence of breast cancer in survivors.

This is because beer, wine and spirits can increase the levels of oestrogen and other hormones in the body associated with breast cancer development. It may also increase the risk of reoccurrence by damaging your DNA cells.

It is therefore important, especially for breast cancer survivors, to lower alcohol consumption and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

How Does Alcohol Increase Cancer Risk?

Alcohol is a known carcinogen – which means that alcohol causes cancer.

There is strong evidence that drinking alcohol increases the risk of at least seven types of cancer including female breast cancer, liver cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer (pharynx and larynx), oesophagus cancer and bowel cancer. Drinking alcohol may also increase the risk of stomach cancer.

How Can I Reduce My Risk?

It’s plain and simple – there is no safe level of drinking involving cancer risk. You need to reduce your drinking to reduce your risk of cancer.

Every single additional alcoholic drink increases your risk of cancer. Whether it’s beer, wine, cider or spirits, the increased risk is the same.

If you drink, make sure you have no more than 10 standard drinks in a week to help reduce your risk of breast cancer. In addition to the weekly recommendation, make sure that you consume no more than four standard drinks on any one day.

Tips To Reduce Drinking Alcohol

  • Know your triggers. If you drink more alcohol when you are stressed or tired, try going for a walk or doing something else to distract you.
  • Try having an alcohol-free house.
  • Aim to have alcohol-free days each week.
  • Join in community events such as FebFast or Dry July to keep you motivated.
  • Offer to be the designated driver when you go out, but make sure you stay under .05.
  • Count your standard drinks – remember, a drink in a bar or restaurant is likely to contain more than one standard drink.
  • Choose a low-alcohol (or no-alcohol) beer and/or wine.
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks like sparkling water or soda and lime.
  • Dilute alcoholic drinks.
  • Use water to quench your thirst and sip alcoholic drinks slowly.


Alcohol Alternatives For Better Health

Here are some delicious suggestions to alcohol alternatives, courtesy of breastcancer.org:

  • Freeze your favourite juice in an ice tray and use as ice cubes. This looks especially appealing in a pint glass of club soda or sparkling water.
  • Get creative and make a dramatic mocktail using edible flowers preserved in syrup — you can even eat the flower afterwards.
  • Put fresh organic raspberries or strawberries in the bottom of a champagne flute and top with sparkling water or ginger ale.
  • Put chunks of fresh fruit on a drink stirrer and put into a glass of your favourite non-alcoholic beverage.


Where Can I Find Support?

If you need support, please contact your local doctor.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your best option would be to either speak with your GP or contact us at Warrier Practice.

We have two specialist breast cancer surgeons at Warrier practice, Dr Sanjay Warrier & Dr Jue Li Seah who are considered as the most reputable breast cancer surgeons in Australia.