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Drinking Risky for Women With Family History of Breast Cancer: Study
Date:11/14/2011

east disease is small and the lack of required biopsies makes it hard to know whether many other women in the study also had the condition.

"Benign breast disease is a spectrum of changes -- from simple cysts and fibrocystic change, which do not significantly increase one's risk of developing breast cancer, all the way to atypical ductal hyperplasia and lobular carcinoma in situ, which -- while not pre-malignant nor frankly cancerous -- impose a significant increased risk," Chagpar said.

"Many women have fibrocystic change which we've come to realize is really quite ubiquitous and part of the spectrum of 'normal,'" she said. "Patients with such simple cysts should be reassured, and while vigilance in terms of screening is always advisable, they also need to know that this does not increase their risk of cancer."

In the big picture, however, "we know that alcohol increases breast cancer risk," she said. The question, she said, is whether it does that by increasing the risk of benign breast disease.

"I do think at-risk individuals should exercise moderation in their alcohol consumption, since excessive alcohol is known to increase one's risk of breast cancer," she said.

A study in the Nov. 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that as few as three alcoholic drinks a month was associated with a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.

In that study, which looked at data on 106,000 women, women who drank the equivalent of three to six glasses of wine were 15 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women who never or rarely drank. Women who consumed much more alcohol -- about two glasses of wine or the equivalent beer/liquor a day -- had a 51 percent increased chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer during nearly three decades of follow-up.

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