Alcohol Drinking and Mortality: Women with Breast Cancer

Is there a link between drinking and mortality in women who have breast cancer?


I.   Important Question

II. Symptoms of Breast Cancer

III.  Some Good News

IV.   Resources

I.  Important Question

Investigators asked that important question. To do so, they studied over time 1,116 women who had breast cancer. The researchers identified them through the Metropolitan New York Registry. It’s a registry of women from families at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The women reported their consumption of beer, wine and spirits (liquor) from age 12. The researchers then calculated each participant’s consumption as the average number of drinks per week since then.

During the mean follow-up of 9.1 years there had been 211 deaths. Of those, 58 were breast cancer related deaths.

The Findings

drinking and mortality in womenThe scientists compared drinkers at the start of the study to non-drinkers. These were their findings.

Overall mortality. Prior consumption levels (low, moderate, heavy) of drinking and death in women were not linked.

Breast cancer-specific mortality. Prior consumption levels (low, moderate, heavy) of drinking and mortality in women were not linked.

Therefore, the self-reported drinking from age 12 to age at baseline was not linked with the death rate after onset of breast cancer.1

III. Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Breast self-examination detects almost half of all breast cancers. Early detection is important so learn how to do a breast self-examination. And do it regularly once a month.

drinking and mortality in womenSymptoms of breast cancer vary. But some common breast cancer signs and symptoms are these.

    • Any increase in size or change in shape of the breast(s) in a short period of time
    • Breast lump or thickening
    • Changes in touch (hard, tender or warm)
    • Changes in the appearance of one or both nipples
    • Irritated or itchy breasts
    • Lump in the underarm area
    • Lumps or nodes felt on or inside of the breas
    • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
    • Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
    • Pain in or on a breast
    • Skin changes, such as irritation, swelling, color, dimpling, or other changes

If in doubt, see a doctor. Better safe than sorry dead.

IV. Some Good News

First, the bad news. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of invasive ductal carcinoma, a major form of breast cancer. But there is no evidence that it increases the risk of these breast cancers.

    • Adenoid cystic carcinoma of the breast
    • Basal-like carcinoma breast cancer
    • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) breast cancer
    • Inflammatory breast cancer (the most aggressive and dangerous breast cancer)
    • Hereditary breast cancer
    • Invasive lobular carcinoma breast cancer
    • Medullary carcinoma breast cancer
    • Metaplastic breast cancer
    • Mucinous carcinoma breast cancer
    • Pagets disease (cancer) of the nipple
    • Papillary carcinoma of the breast
    • Phyllodes breast tumors
    • Triple-negative breast cancer

V. Resources: Drinking and Mortality in Women

    1. Zeinomar, N., et al. Alcohol consumption and breast cancer-specific and all-cause mortality in women diagnosed with breast cancer. PLoS One. 12(12), 12+
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P.S. Don’t forget the monthly breast self-examination.