Red and white wine have 'no benefit' for breast cancer risk

In collaboration with the Press Association

Red and white wine have a similar impact on breast cancer risk, according to US scientists.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre carried out the largest study of its kind to determine the effect of red versus white wine on breast cancer risk.

Previous research has suggested that while overall alcohol consumption increases the risk of the disease, red wine may in fact provide a small beneficial effect, and thus not impact so heavily on cancer risk.

- Henry Scowcroft, science information manager, Cancer Research UK

The team interviewed 6,327 women with breast cancer and a further 7,558 women who had no history of the disease, all of whom were aged between 20 and 69 years and came from Wisconsin, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Women in both groups drank a similar amount of alcohol, including equal amounts of red and white wine.

The researchers found that women who consumed 14 or more alcoholic beverages each week were 24 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who consumed no alcohol, regardless of whether the preferred drink was red wine, white wine, spirits or beer.

Lead author Dr Polly Newcomb, head of the centre's Cancer Prevention Programme, said that previous studies on heart disease and prostate cancer had suggested red wine might have beneficial effects on breast cancer risk.

"The general evidence is that alcohol consumption overall increases breast cancer risk, but the other studies made us wonder whether red wine might in fact have some positive value."

However, Dr Newcomb revealed: "We found no difference between red or white wine in relation to breast cancer risk. Neither appears to have any benefits.

"If a woman drinks, she should do so in moderation - no more than one drink a day," the researcher advised.

"And if a woman chooses red wine, she should do so because she likes the taste, not because she thinks it may reduce her risk of breast cancer."

Henry Scowcroft, Cancer Research UK science information manager, said: "The evidence overwhelmingly shows that alcohol increases the risk of several types of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, oesophagus and breast. Your risk is affected by how much you drink, so the more you cut down, the more you reduce your risk.

"This new study shows that all types of alcoholic drink are equal when it comes to increasing breast cancer risk."

The findings are published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

References

Newcomb, P., Nichols, H., Beasley, J., Egan, K., Titus-Ernstoff, L., Hampton, J., & Trentham-Dietz, A. (2009). No Difference Between Red Wine or White Wine Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 18 (3), 1007-1010 DOI: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0801