Kwan's team found that study participants who were postmenopausal or overweight/obese raised their risk for breast cancer recurrence by nearly 1.5 times if they regularly consumed a minimum of three to four drinks of any type of alcohol a week.
Similarly, that group of women faced a 1.5 times greater risk of dying from breast cancer if they followed the same drinking patterns.
On the other hand, the research team unearthed indications that drinking any amount of alcohol may possibly decrease the risk of dying from causes other than breast cancer.
However, Kwan stressed that the findings will need to be confirmed by other studies.
Dr. Paula Klein a medical oncologist and breast cancer specialist at the Beth Israel Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York City, who was not involved in the research, described the observations as useful, as long as they are taken in context.
The researchers only looked at moderate drinking, not heavy drinking, and their finding is confined to women who are postmenopausal and those who are overweight or obese, she stressed. "But that's a good thing, because information like this -- where risks and benefits are confined to different subgroups -- is part of the new push to personalize medicine," she said. "Because one size doesn't fit all in terms of risk factors and treatments."
The study is important because it adds to a woman's awareness of risk factors for the development and recurrence of breast cancer, she said. "And it's another gentle reminder of the risks associated with being overweight and obese, and how small additional factors can influence outcomes," she added.
When patients ask what they can do to lower their risk, this is a modifiable change, alongside weight loss and exercise, she said.
"For those patients who really want to enjoy their wine and
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