Drinking just one glass of wine or other alcohol-containing drink a day increases breast cancer risk, finds a major new report by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). The report also showed that vigorous exercise such as running or fast bicycling decreases the risk of both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer, and confirmed moderate exercise decreases the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.


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Brisk Walking, Alcohol and Breastfeeding

This study involved the collection of scientific research worldwide on how diet, weight, and exercise affect the risk of getting breast cancer. Here’s what this review of 199 studies (including data on 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer showed):

  • A small glass or wine or beer daily (roughly 10 grams of alcohol content; a standard drink is about 14 grams) increase premenopausal risk by 5 percent, while increasing the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer by 9 percent.
  • Premenopausal women who were the most active dropped their breast cancer risk by 17 percent, at least as compared to the least active women. For the most active post-menopausal women, the risk dropped by 10 percent. Total moderate activity (think walking or gardening) led to a 13 percent lower risk of breast cancer.
  • Being overweight or obese increases the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.
  • Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer.

The study also points to limited evidence that non-starchy vegetables lower the risk of estrogen-receptor (ER)-negative breast cancers, a less common but more challenging to treat type of tumor. Limited evidence also links dairy, diets high in calcium and foods containing carotenoids to lowering risk of some breast cancers. Carrots, apricots, spinach and kale are all foods high in carotenoids, a group of phytonutrients that appear to have health benefits. This comprehensive report confirms there are steps you can take to lower your risk of breast cancer: Have a physically active lifestyle, maintain a healthy weight throughout life and limit alcohol. And perhaps a Mediterranean-like diet may help, too. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.