Medically Reviewed by Ravneet Bajwa, MD
“Put that drink down and get moving” quickly summarizes this information about ways to control your risk of breast cancer.
“Research shows alcohol consumption increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer,” says McLeod Oncologist Ravneet Bajwa, MD. “While other studies show that exercise lowers your risk of breast cancer.”
THE ALCOHOL EFFECT
Alcohol increases certain hormone levels, including estrogen. High levels of estrogen can stimulate breast cancer. While some studies describe it as only a “moderate” increase in risk, others indicate that as few as three drinks a week can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 15 percent.
It’s not just liquor drinks we’re talking about. “One drink” equals 1.5 ounces of liquor, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer. For women who have already struggled with and survived breast cancer, a 2009 study revealed that even consuming a few alcoholic beverages a week raises the risk of a reoccurrence of the cancer.
Now, we also know from research that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of heart disease. As one researcher noted, “Those beneficial effects (of the heart) should be weighed against the slight increase in risk for breast cancer.”
THE EXERCISE EFFECT
Why exercise helps reduce breast cancer risk is still not completely understood. Yet, comparisons of women, who exercise to those who are less active or inactive, disclose a 20%-30% reduction in risk of breast cancer.
Unlike alcohol consumption, there’s no magic number for time or amount of exercise, except to say that more is better. The American Cancer Society recommends all adults record at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week.
Appropriate activities include recreational bicycling, brisk walking, golfing (walking is better than riding), doubles tennis and even yard work.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
To get you out of the chair and moving, try to:
Have a cancer question? Click here to ask an expert.
Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, American Institute for Cancer Research, World Cancer Research Fund, Cancer Research UK, American Cancer Society