Just in time for the return of nearly 250,000 college students to Boston, comes word of an important research study that all female students should be aware of, before they head out to bars and dorm parties. In a study released in the August 28 Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have determined that there is a link between drinking alcohol in the years between adolescence and first full-term pregnancy, and increased risk of breast cancer.
Scientists have known for years that alcohol consumption increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Health professionals recommend that all women limit any alcohol to one drink per day, or less, as the risk increases dramatically after that. However, this is the first study which links risk of breast cancer to younger women who drink.
“More and more heavy drinking is occurring on college campuses and during adolescence, and not enough people are considering future risk. If a female averages a drink per day between her first period and her first full-term pregnancy, she increases her risk of breast cancer by 13 percent,” said study co-author Graham Colditz, MD DrPH, associate director for cancer prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.
Researchers also noted that for every drink (bottle of beer, glass of wine, or shot of liquor) consumed daily, a young woman’s risk of proliferative benign breast disease (BBD) increases by 15 percent. Study first-author Ying Liu, MD PhD, a School of Medicine instructor in the Division of Public Health Sciences noted that although noncancerous, the presence of BBD increases breast cancer risk by as much as 500 percent. In addition, researchers determined that the more the women studied drank, the more their risk increased.
“Parents should educate their daughters about the link between drinking and risk of breast cancer and breast disease,” she said. “That’s very important because this time period is very critical.
The findings were based on health histories of more than 91,000 mothers enrolled in the US Nurses’ Health Study II.