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Research Summary

Alcohol Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk

Findings on the relationship between alcohol and breast cancer risk have been inconsistent, and the effect of specific types of alcohol on this risk has not been adequately studied. Using questionnaire data from 13,074 Danish women aged 20–91 years (473 cases of breast cancer), researchers sought to clarify the effect of the type and amount of alcohol intake on breast cancer risk. Results from analyses adjusted for relevant confounders (e.g., age, hormone replacement therapy, parity) include the following:

  • Total alcohol intake did not significantly affect the risk of breast cancer in the sample as a whole (both premenopausal and postmenopausal women).
  • Premenopausal women who drank >27 drinks of any type of alcohol per week had a significantly greater risk (relative risk, RR, 3.5) compared with light drinkers (who consumed 1–6 drinks per week). Risk did not differ by type of alcohol.
  • While their risk was not significantly impacted by total intake of all types of alcohol, women aged 70 or older who drank >6 drinks of spirits per week had a significantly greater risk (RR 2.4) compared with those who consumed <1 drink of spirits per week.


Previous studies on the relationship between alcohol and breast cancer have produced inconsistent results possibly because they may have not accounted for menopausal status (a risk for premenopausal women) or type of alcoholic beverage consumed (spirits as a risk for the elderly). Until these complex relationships are sorted out, it appears that breast cancer risk is just one more reason to advise against heavy drinking.

Joseph Conigliaro, MD, MPH


Petri AL, Tjønneland A, Gamborg M, et al. Alcohol intake, type of beverage, and risk of breast cancer in pre- and postmenopausal women. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004;28(7):1084–1090.
(view abstract)