Alcohol Consumption Associated with Increased Risk for Benign Breast Disease in Young Women

Adolescent females who drank frequently were more likely to develop benign breast disease, a predictor of increased break cancer risk.

Online PR News – 13-May-2010 – – Boston, MA – Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Harvard Medical School and Washington University have found that excessive and frequent consumption of alcohol during adolescence may increase a woman’s risk for benign breast disease (BBD). Because BBD predicts increased breast cancer risk, the relationship between adolescent drinking and BBD has implications for breast cancer risk. The findings are published in the April 12 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

In some previous studies where women were asked to recall their adolescent drinking patterns many years later, a connection was made between adolescent drinking and increased risk for breast cancer and BBD. “This is the first study to find the same association while assessing drinking patterns during adolescence and following up by checking for BBD in adulthood,” said Dr. Catherine Berkey, a biostatistician in the Channing Laboratory at BWH and HMS.

The research was part of The Growing Up Today Study, which included 9037 US girls aged 9 to 15 years when enrolled in 1996. The girls answered questionnaires throughout their participation in the study, establishing their drinking habits and later reporting if they developed BBD.

Females who typically drank three or more days per week were at higher risk for BBD than those who never drank or drank less than once per week. Those who typically consumed 7 drinks total, per week, were similarly at increased risk.

“The findings’ implications are magnified when coupled with the great increase in alcohol consumption in college aged students in recent years,” said Berkey. “There is already strong evidence that drinking by adult women increases breast cancer risk, and our study at least suggests that may apply to drinking by adolescent females as well.” Researchers believe this provides another reason for young females to defer alcohol consumption to the legal drinking age or later.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 777-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare, an integrated health care delivery network. In July of 2008, the hospital opened the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, the most advanced center of its kind. BWH is committed to excellence in patient care with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery. The BWH medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in quality improvement and patient safety initiatives and its dedication to educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Biomedical Research Institute (BRI), BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on human diseases, involving more than 860 physician-investigators and renowned biomedical scientists and faculty supported by more than $416 M in funding. BWH is also home to major landmark epidemiologic population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative. For more information about BWH, please visit http://www.brighamandwomens.org/.

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