When they looked at specific groups, stratified according to age or ethnicity, the results were similar.
Dr Klatsky said: Statistical analyses limited to strata of wine preferrers, beer preferrers, spririts preferrers or non-preferrers each showed that heavier drinking compared to light drinking was related to breast cancer risk in each group. This strongly confirms the relation of ethyl alcohol per se to increased risk.
He continued: A 30% increased risk is not trivial. To put it into context, it is not much different from the increased risk associated with women taking oestrogenic hormones. Incidentally, in this same study we have found that smoking a pack of cigarettes or more per day is related to a similar (30%) increased risk of breast cancer.
Although breast cancer incidence varies between populations and only a small proportion of women are heavy drinkers, Dr Klatsky said that a 30% increase in the relative risk of breast cancer from heavy drinking might translate into approximately an extra 5% of all women developing breast cancer as a result of their habit.
Other studies, including research from the same authors, have shown that red wine can protect against heart attacks, but Dr Klatsky said that different mechanisms were probably at work.
We think that the heart protection benefit from red wine is real, but is probably derived mostly from alcohol-induced higher HDL (good) cholesterol, reduced blood clotting and reduced diabetes. None of these mechanisms are known to have anything to do with breast cancer. The coronary benefit from drinking red wine may also be related to favourable drinking patterns common among wine drinkers or to the favourable traits of wine drinkers, as evidenced by US an
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