MONDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Teenage girls and young adult women who drink even moderate amounts of alcohol appear to increase their risk of developing breast changes that can lead to cancer, according to a large new study.
The study, which followed more than 29,000 females, found that for each 10 grams of alcohol (the equivalent of about one drink) consumed each day, the risk of developing these noncancerous cells and lesions -- called proliferative benign breast disease (BDD) -- increased 15 percent.
"It's clear that this study shows that late adolescent alcohol [drinking] drives up the risk of these preliminary benign changes in the breast," said Dr. Graham Colditz, a professor of surgery and associate director for prevention and control at the Siteman Cancer Center of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
"The risk is substantial," Colditz said. The good news? Young women who are aware of the link can change their behavior, he said.
The study, published online April 9, appears in the May print issue of Pediatrics.
A link between alcohol and breast cancer has already been established. Adult women who drink two to five alcoholic drinks a day have 1.5 times the risk of breast cancer compared to nondrinkers, according to the American Cancer Society.
But the mechanism behind that association is not clear, and the researchers wanted to see if high levels of folate, a B vitamin, could offset the effects of alcohol, as some previous reports have suggested.
Alcohol is thought to hamper the availability of folate, especially in heavy drinkers. Too little folate, in turn, can abnormally affect DNA.
Colditz and his colleagues evaluated data from the Nurses' Health Study II to focus on earlier drinking habits. The women, who were free of cancer and benign breast disease at the study's start, answered questions about alcoho
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