Here’s a sobering fact for millions of young women heading back to school: The more alcohol they drink before motherhood, the greater their risk of future breast cancer.
“More and more heavy drinking is occurring on college campuses and during adolescence, and not enough people are considering future risk. But, according to our research, the lesson is clear: If a female averages a drink per day between her first period and her first full-term pregnancy, she increases her risk of breast cancer by 11 percent,” said co-author Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, associate director for cancer prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.
“Parents should educate their daughters about the link between drinking and risk of breast cancer and breast disease,” she said. “That’s very important because this time period is very critical.”
Breast tissue cells are particularly susceptible to cancer-causing substances as they undergo rapid proliferation during adolescence and later.
(Editor’s note: A previous version of this news release stated that a female who averages one alcoholic drink per day between her first menstrual cycle and her first full-term pregnancy increases her breast cancer risk by 13 percent. The risk increase is actually 11 percent. The 13 percent increase previously reported factored in additional risk from post-pregnancy drinking.)
This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH) (R01 CA050385, R01 CA046475). Colditz’s work also is supported by an American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Liu’s research is supported by The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Liu Y, Colditz GA, Rosner B, Berkey CS, Collins LC, Schnitt SJ, Connolly JL, Chen WY, Willett WC, Tamimi RM. Alcohol intake between menarche and first pregnancy: A prospective study of breast cancer risk. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Online Aug. 28, 2013.
Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
The Siteman Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Missouri, is ranked among the top cancer facilities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Comprising the cancer research, prevention and treatment programs of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, Siteman is also Missouri’s only member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.