Alcohol Consumption Linked With High Breast Cancer Risk in Black Women

The link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk in black women has been confirmed in a new study published in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Alcohol consumption has been linked with breast cancer in previous studies focusing on white women. The new study shows that this is not restricted to the latter: rather, black women also face the same risk. The results also confirm the correlation between drinking alcohol and breast cancer risk.

A team from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center decided to investigate the effect of alcohol consumption on the under-studied group, black women. Minority groups are usually not made the focus of scientific papers because they constitute a smaller proportion of populations that are studied, explains Melissa Troester, one of the authors. She says that their research avoids this limitation as they looked into the cases of 22,338 black women. First author Lindsay Williams adds that their work shows the benefit in putting together consortia to “focus on understudied groups”.

Williams and her colleagues found that black women having 7 or more alcoholic drinks on a weekly basis had a greater risk of breast cancer of any subtype.

“We found that the patterns observed in other studies examining alcohol and breast cancer risk hold in black women, too,” says Troester.

Black women consuming over 14 alcoholic drinks per week were significantly more prone to developing invasive breast cancer as opposed to those who would have fewer drinks. Furthermore, those who stopped drinking alcohol had a lower risk than those who were still drinking. This suggests that a decreased consumption of alcohol might lower the risk.

So, changing the risk factor that is alcohol consumption can decrease women’s breast cancer risk, regardless of race. As Troester explains, alcohol is an “important modifiable exposure” whose decrease should be considered by women who are worried about their breast cancer risk.

On the other hand, some women who had never consumed alcohol also displayed significantly higher risk for the disease. According to the authors, these group of women includes those who suffer from other health conditions which can increase breast cancer risk.

“In the future, it may be worth-while to better characterize women who identify as never drinkers to understand reasons for abstaining from alcohol,” says Williams.

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