A Link Between Breast Cancer and Alcohol?

CREATED Apr. 26, 2013

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A lot of us unwind after a tough day with a drink, but sobering new research says just a few of those a week could put some women's health at risk.

 
Alcohol is one of the risk factors for breast cancer, but until now no one knew why.  Now new research might help women save their "own" lives when it comes to how much they drink. 
 
There is a lot of laughter in this room at Gilda's Club in Madison.  Kim Mickelson told us, "laughter is the best medicine for me." Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago.
 
Cathy Helmsing was diagnosed in October of 2011.  Kim and Cathy also lean on Gilda's Club for support from those who have also fought to live. Cathy said, "we've become great friends through our time here."
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After what they've endured both feel the more knowledge the better when it comes to their health. "I don't want to do anything to help the cancer come back," Cathy commented.
 
And for some women alcohol could be the enemy.  One study found having just three to six glasses of wine a week increases a woman's risk for breast cancer by 15%, but until now nobody new why.
 
New research points the finger at an enzyme that breaks down the alcohol you put in your body. The women who have higher levels of that enzyme could be more at risk for breast cancer if they drink.
 
"This enzyme, when it's elevated it results in conversion and creation of more toxic species," Dr. Christopher  Chitambar explained.  An oncologist with Froedtert and The Medical College of Wisconsin he hopes this knowledge will lead to one more way women can protect themselves. "Everybody wants to see what they can do with their lifestyle to reduce their risk of cancer."
 
Kim hopes other women are listening to their doctors and the new research. "I don't want anyone to go through what I've gone through.  So if you you can reduce your odds, just put that other glass to the side."
 
Not every woman's body produces a higher level of this enzyme. The hope down the road it to develop a test to identify the women who do.  Doctor's can then let them know they might be at a greater risk if they choose to drink.