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How Alcohol Abuse Can Lead to Breast Cancer.

Breast cancer is a form of cancer that develops specifically in breast tissue, which is typically, though not exclusively, found in women. This is the second most common form of cancer diagnosed in women after skin cancer; however, the term breast cancer actually covers numerous types of cancer that can occur in various types of breast tissue.

Symptoms of breast cancer may include:

  • A lump in the breast
  • Thickening in part of the breast that feels different from the rest of the tissue
  • Change in size, shape, or appearance of the breast
  • Changes in skin around the area, like dimpling
  • Nipple inversion that was not there before
  • Flaking, scaling, crusting, or peeling of the areola or other skin of the breast
  • Tenderness, redness, or pitting of the skin over the breast, making it look like an orange

Most types of breast cancer begin in the ducts which produce milk during lactation but can also develop in the glandular tissues called lobules. There are many risk factors that can trigger the development of breast cancer.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

Like other chronic illnesses, several factors, often in combination, may lead to the development of breast cancer. Some of these factors are lifestyle-related and can be changed. Others are impossible to control for, so it is important to manage the risk as much as possible and work to detect breast cancer early if uncontrollable risk factors are present.

Risk factors include:

  • Genetics: About 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases are triggered by one or more genes, especially BRCA1 or 2.
  • Family history and ethnicity: Having close female relatives who have had breast cancer increases one’s risk of breast cancer, so a doctor may recommend genetic screening. Additionally, some ethnic groups are at greater risk for breast cancer than others. For example, white women over 45 are at higher risk than African American women of the same age; however, this reverses under age 45. Family history and ethnicity correlate to an increased risk of mutations in genes associated with cancer and can contribute to some lifestyle risks
  • Personal history: Women who have breast cancer in one breast have an elevated risk of developing the disease in the other breast.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop breast cancer than men, in part because they are more likely to have forms of breast tissue that can develop this cancer (although some men may have these types of tissue). In addition, fluctuations in estrogen levels may lead to the development of cancer
  • Age: Older women, especially around menopause, are more likely to develop breast cancer because their estrogen levels are decreasing, and they are more likely to have been exposed to toxins, including recreational drugs, which increase the risk of cancer. Women between the ages of 50 and 74 should have regular mammograms, and women with any other risk factors should speak with their doctor about regular mammograms starting at age 40.
  • Dense breast tissue and benign breast conditions: Dense breast tissue means that mammograms are more difficult to interpret, so early detection of breast cancer is harder. Women with dense breast tissue are 1.5-2 times more likely to develop breast cancer. Women with fibrosis, benign breast tumors, some forms of breast calcification, and other benign issues can later develop breast cancer
  • Weight: Being overweight, especially after menopause, increases the risk of developing many cancers, including breast cancer.
  • Life events causing hormonal fluctuations: Beginning menstruation before age 12, never having children, not breastfeeding a child, or having a child at a very young age can all increase the risk of breast cancer. Additionally, taking estrogen therapies like high-dose birth control or having hormone replacement therapy after menopause increases the risk of developing this cancer.
  • Substance abuse: In particular, smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol increase the risk of all cancers, including breast cancer.
  • Exposure to other toxins: Radiation and toxic chemicals increase the risk of genetic mutations throughout life, which trigger all kinds of cancers, including breast cancer. This is because fat tissue stores estrogen, and after menopause, these tissues are the primary source of this hormone.

Alcohol Abuse and Women

woman drinking

Drinking too much alcohol is one of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer that can be controlled. Over 100 studies have shown that women who drink more than 45 grams (or about three servings) of alcohol per day have 1.5 times the risk for breast cancer compared to women who drink less; for every additional 10 grams (or about one serving) of alcohol consumed per day, there is an additional 7 percent increased risk.

While drinking one serving of alcohol per day does not significantly increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, drinking two or three drinks per day increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer 20 percent. The American Cancer Society recommends that women drink less than one serving of alcohol per day, which is the definition of moderate drinking for women.

Get Help to Prevent Breast Cancer

There are various methods that can be employed to prevent breast cancer and get treatment early, such as:

  • Avoiding intoxicating drugs
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising most days of the week
  • Limiting hormone therapy after menopause
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Conducting regular breast examinations and asking a doctor if there are any concerns