Light Alcohol Consumption May Increase Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence But Not Risk of Death from All Causes

The Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) study included 2269 women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer between 1997 and 2000 and recruited approximately 2 years following breast cancer diagnosis. Researchers evaluated the association between alcohol intake, breast cancer recurrence, and death among the 1897 participants (84%) who provided alcohol consumption data at baseline. Most of the women were light drinkers (median, 5.96 g alcohol per day). Average follow-up was 7.4 years.

  • There were 293 breast cancer recurrences and 273 deaths during the follow-up period.
  • Compared with no drinking, consuming ≥6 g alcohol per day (about ½ a US standard drink) was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer recurrence (hazard ratio [HR], 1.35) and death due to breast cancer (HR, 1.51).
  • The risk of recurrence was greater among postmenopausal women (HR, 1.51) and overweight or obese women (HR, 1.60).
  • Alcohol intake was not associated with death from all causes.


Most previous large studies, as in this one, have shown no increase in all-cause mortality for women who drink moderately following a breast cancer diagnosis. Most have also shown no increased risk for breast-cancer recurrence, although one involving women with estrogen-receptor-positive tumors found an increased risk with consumption of >7 drinks per week. Because of these conflicting results, the question of whether light drinking increases breast cancer recurrence or death remains unanswered.

R. Curtis Ellison, MD


Kwan ML, Kushi LH, Weltzien E, et al. Alcohol consumption and breast cancer recurrence and survival among women with early-stage breast cancer: the Life After Cancer Epidemiology Study. J Clin Oncol. 2010;28(29):4410– 4416.

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