For women, breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths. One in 8 women will develop breast cancer within their lifetime, and in most cases, these women don’t have a family history of breast cancer.
What does happy hour and your nightly glass of wine have to do with that? More than you might think.
Most women are not aware that alcohol is a cause of breast cancer, though the link between alcohol and breast cancer has been known since the 1980s. The statistics are sobering: Alcohol alone is responsible for an estimated 14,000 to 23,000 cases of breast cancer yearly.
Read on as we bust some common breast cancer myths.
Myth: As long as I drink in moderation, I won’t increase my breast cancer risk.
False. Although the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend women limit alcohol intake to up to one drink daily, even this moderate level of consumption can be harmful. A standard drink contains 14 grams of alcohol, which is found in 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
As little as one daily drink — or even a portion of a drink — is associated with a higher breast cancer risk. This begs the question, What is a safe daily amount of alcohol to drink? According to the American Cancer Society, none.
Daily drinking is out. However, the occasional drink on a night out is probably fine.
Myth: One glass of red wine nightly is good for my health.
Partially true. While this is possibly true for your heart, red wine is not your breast’s friend.
Myth: As long as I only drink occasionally, my breast cancer risk probably won’t go up.
False. It depends how much you’re drinking when you drink. For women, having four or more drinks over the span of a couple of hours is considered binge drinking. Binge drinkers have twice the risk of premenopausal breast cancer. While postmenopausal breast cancer risk is not clearly increased by binge drinking, breast cancers that occur before the menopause transition are typically more aggressive and difficult to treat.
So how should I drink?
While consuming only the occasional drink would be ideal, it’s important to set realistic goals. The following tips may be helpful in managing breast cancer risk:
- Take a walk before, during or after the evening cocktail. If you drink, that’s all the more reason to exercise, as this may counteract the negative effects of alcohol.
- Less is best. The level of risk increases with amount. Any reduction in amount or frequency of drinking is beneficial. It may help to try savoring fine wine or sipping on a cocktail.
- Try a nonalcoholic wine. Nonalcoholic wines can have very small amounts of alcohol, but choosing one over standard wine still majorly reduces your alcohol intake. The bottles are just as fancy, and nonalcoholic wines may provide just as many, if not more, heart-healthy benefits as alcoholic versions. If wine’s not your thing, there’s an ever-expanding array of nonalcoholic liquors and beers as well. Try one. Your breasts will thank you.
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