A new study by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, published Wednesday online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute linked drinking between adolescence and motherhood with increased risk for breast cancer. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA), four out of five college students drink alcohol and of those half are also binge drinkers making the new findings even more alarming.
“More and heavier drinking is occurring on college campuses and during adolescence, and not enough people are considering future risk. But, according to our research, the lesson is clear: 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, D.Ph., associate director for cancer prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.
The NIAAA found that students are especially vulnerable to partake in heavy drinking and alcohol related activities because of student and peer expectations and social pressures at the beginning of the year most notably during the first six weeks. Additionally, research has shown and logic tends to agree, students that attend schools with strong Greek systems and or prominent athletic programs tend to drink more than students at other schools.
The new research found that for every alcoholic beverage, whether wine, beer, or hard liquor, that was consumed daily, a young woman increases her risk of proliferative benign breast disease by 15 percent. “Although such lesions are noncancerous, their presence increases breast cancer risk by as much as 500 percent”, notes, Ying Liu, MD, PhD, a School of Medicine instructor in the Division of Public Health Sciences and study co-author.
An often overlooked and underestimated preventive factor involves the continuing influence of parents. Research shows that students who choose not to drink often do so because their parents discussed the use of alcohol and the possible consequences with them.
“Parents should educate their daughters about the link between drinking and risk of breast cancer and breast disease,” Liu said. “That’s very important because this time period is very critical.”
To learn more about breast cancer risk based on age and lifestyle factors, visit www.yourdiseaserisk.wustl.edu.