Young people * Women's health

Teenage drinking linked to breast disease

Risk factor for breast cancer

Teenage girils and young women who drink alcohol increase their chances of developing benign breast disease, a new study has found.

About 80 per cent of breast lumps are benign, or non-cancerous. But they can also be a step in a pathway leading from normal breast tissue to invasive breast cancer, so they are also a known risk factor for breast cancer.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis and Harvard University monitored the alcohol consumption of 6,899 girls and young women from 1996 to 2007. All were aged between 9 to 15 years at the start of the study.

During this time, 147 developed benign breast disease.

The study showed that the more alcohol the young women drank, the more likely they were to have benign breast disease.

Girls and young women who drank six or seven days a week were 5.5 times more likely to have benign breast disease than those who didn't drink, or who had less than one drink per week.

Those who reported drinking three to five days a week had three times the risk.

The women who developed benign breast disease also drank more often, drank more on each occasion and had an average daily consumption that was double that of those who did not have benign breast disease. They also had more episodes of binge drinking.

Many women start drinking alcohol in their teenage years just at the time in which their breast tissue is rapidly changing. This may partially explain why drinking alcohol increases their risk of breast disease at this age.

"There's growing evidence that physical activity can lower breast cancer risk," said Dr Graham Colditz from the Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital who co-led the study. "We also know that diet and weight are important factors. Now it is clear that drinking habits throughout life affect breast cancer risk, as well."

The study is published online in the journal Pediatrics.

This article was published on Tue 13 April 2010



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