Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Department Of Health Research Shows Women Are Unaware Of Link Between Alcohol And Breast Cancer Risk

New research from the Department of Health's Know Your Limits campaign reveals that the vast majority of UK women (82%) don't realise alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

According to the General Household Survey, around 4 million women drink more than the NHS recommended daily limit of 2-3 units of alcohol, equivalent to one large glass of wine a day (250ml at ABV 12%). [1]

We know that regularly drinking alcohol can slightly increase the risk of developing breast cancer and the risk increases the more you drink. Drinking, on average, one unit of alcohol per day increases a woman's risk of breast cancer by about 6%. This risk increases by a further 6% for each additional unit of alcohol consumed on a daily basis. For example, a woman who drinks two units per day each and every day of her adult life would increase her risk of breast cancer by about 12%. [2]

Unlike many other established breast cancer risk factors, alcohol consumption is something we can change. The important message is for women to be aware of how many units of alcohol they are consuming and to drink in moderation.

Dr Sarah Cant, Policy Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said:

"Drinking moderate or high levels of any type of alcoholic drink has many health consequences, including an increased chance of developing breast cancer.

"Although many factors might affect our risk of getting breast cancer, limiting how much we drink is one thing we can do to try to reduce that risk - it's never too late to change your drinking habits."

Drinking alcohol is one of the few identified risk factors for developing breast cancer. We don't yet know all the causes of the disease but it's thought to be a combination of hormonal, genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors. For most women, the biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer is increasing age.

The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the chances of successful treatment. It's important for all women to be breast aware and to attend NHS Breast Screening appointments if they are over 50.

More information about breast cancer risk factors can be found here

To find out more about the Know Your Limits campaign visit http://www.units.nhs.uk

[1] The 'around 4 million' figure is based on 21,119,500 women aged 16 and over in England (ONS 2006 population estimates). General Household Survey data shows that in 2006, 20% of English women drank more than 14 units in the week (using the new methodology). Using this, the Know Your Limits campaign estimates that 4,223,900 women aged 16 or over exceeded the 14 units in 2006.

[2] These figures are estimates and reflect the incidence of breast cancer in the UK population and the size of alcoholic units in the UK.


- For more information about the established, possible and doubtful risk factors for breast cancer, Breakthrough Breast Cancer has published the BMA award-winning booklet, Breast Cancer Risk Factors: The Facts. Copies can be obtained by calling the Breakthrough Information Line on 08080 100 200 or can be downloaded here

- At the moment we don't have enough information or the means to prevent breast cancer. That's why Breakthrough Breast Cancer has launched the Breakthrough Generations Study, in partnership with The Institute of Cancer Research. This is the largest, most comprehensive investigation into the causes of breast cancer in the UK. Involving 100,000 women over the next 40 years, the study aims to provide the most detailed information yet on what causes breast cancer and as a result, give an understanding of how the disease can be prevented in the first place. If you would like more information about the Breakthrough Generations Study, please visit http://www.breakthroughgenerations.org.uk.

Rachel Pilkington
Assistant PR Officer

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