Fall 2013

Alcohol consumption doesn't impact breast cancer survival



Previous research has tied alcohol consumption to increased breast cancer risk, but a new study found that drinking before and after diagnosis does not impact whether women survive the disease. What's more, moderate drinkers have a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, a major cause of mortality among breast cancer survivors.

The study was led by the Public Health Science Division's Dr. Polly Newcomb, who also heads Fred Hutch's Cancer Prevention Program, and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

wine glasses
"Our findings should be reassuring to women who have breast cancer because their past experience consuming alcohol is unlikely to impact their
survival," Newcomb said.

The study was based on data from almost 23,000 women with breast cancer who participated in the Collaborative Breast Cancer Study, which looked at risk factors for breast cancer and is the largest such study of its kind.

The authors found that the amount and type of alcohol a woman consumed in the years before her diagnosis was not associated with her likelihood of dying from breast cancer. They also found that those who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol (three to six drinks per week) in the years before their cancer diagnosis were 15 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than non-drinkers. In particular, moderate wine consumption was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality, while there was no such benefit from consuming beer or spirits.

Similar patterns were evident when considering reported alcohol consumption after breast cancer diagnosis.

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