Quantity not type of alcohol increases breast cancer risk

In collaboration with the Press Association

A large study has confirmed that the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of breast cancer - regardless of the type of alcohol consumed.

Dr Arthur Klatsky, a researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, said that many previous studies have linked alcohol with an increased risk of female breast cancer.

"But until now there has been little data, most of it conflicting, about an independent role played by the choice of beverage type," he explained.

The researchers analysed the drinking habits of 70,033 women between 1978 and 1985 and compared the information with data on the incidence of breast cancer.

They found that the risk of breast cancer was increased by ten per cent among women who drank between one and two alcoholic beverages per day, rising to 30 per cent for those who regularly consumed three or more alcoholic drinks.

However, the researchers found that when they compared the total alcohol intake among women who preferred one type of alcoholic beverage to another - including red wine, white wine, beer and spirits - there was no difference in the rates of breast cancer incidence.

Dr Klatsky said: "Statistical analyses limited to strata of wine preferrers, beer preferrers, spirits 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 to increased risk."

The expert added that the increased risk is "not trivial" and suggested that heavy drinking may lead to an extra five per cent of women developing the disease.