New Study Toasts Risks and Benefits of Alcohol for Women

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To drink, or not to drink, and if yes, how much has been a debatable topic, particularly when it comes to women s health. While alcohol in moderation has long been known to benefit the heart, bone and brain it is also known to boost the risk of breast cancer by 15% when compared to those who abstained. However a new study now finds that drinking before and after a breast cancer diagnosis did not hurt a patients survival from the cancer -- and in some cases, alcohol even seemed to improve survival. These findings may at least provide a sense of relief to some breast cancer patients, giving them a reason to toast.

According to the study s author Polly Newcomb, head of the Cancer Prevention Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Our findings should be reassuring to women who have breast cancer because their past experience consuming alcohol will not impact their survival after diagnosis. This study also provides additional support for the beneficial effect of moderate alcohol consumption with respect to cardiovascular disease.

Indeed the findings indicated that drinking following the diagnosis did not seem to affect the participants survival from breast cancer, but it did reduce their risk of dying from heart disease; women who drank in moderation enjoyed a 39% to 50% lower risk of heart-related death during the study period compared to those who didn t drink.

ACSH has long advanced the science on the benefits of moderate alcohol and has even opined on studies that associated an increased risk of breast cancer to drinking. "The message here is encouraging and confusing" adds ACSH President Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. For a woman with diagnosed breast cancer, their findings suggest an occasional drink won t impact your cancer survival outcome. However if you are a healthy woman who wishes to enjoy a few drinks a week, then you should weigh and discuss the risks and benefits of moderate alcohol consumption with your doctor to best determine how drinking might impact your personal overall health.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross adds, There are many risks factors that contribute to breast cancer, and what we ve learned here is that avoiding an occasional cocktail may not only add to a woman s daily worries needlessly, but may actually detract from her overall health.