Drinking alcohol could raise breast cancer risk in teenagers by increasing their risk of developing benign breast disease according to a new study carried out at Washington University School of Medicine. Teenage alcohol use of any type increases a teen’s odds of developing benign breast changes – a condition which can lead to breast biopsies and a higher risk of breast cancer in some cases. Disturbing news for teenage girls who are experimenting with alcohol.
Teen Use of Alcohol and Breast Disease
In this study, researchers looked at the alcohol drinking habits of over 9,000 girls between the ages of nine and fifteen. They found that girls who drank alcohol were at a higher risk of developing benign breast disease. Although benign breast disease is non-cancerous, some types raise the risk of breast cancer, and may require biopsy – leading to considerable anxiety. In this study, girls who drank most days of the week increased their risk of benign breast disease by over five times and the risk was elevated even for teens who drank smaller amounts of alcohol and teens who only binge drank.
Teenage Use of Alcohol: Harmful to the Breasts in More Ways than One
Not only is teenage alcohol use unhealthy for breast tissue short-term, but the risk can carry over into adulthood. Studies show that women who drink even one or two alcoholic drinks a day as adults have an increased risk of breast cancer – although this risk can be offset by supplementing with folic acid. When it comes to the risk of benign breast disease and breast cancer, there’s no safe time for females to drink alcohol.
Teenage Alcohol Use: How Does Drinking Alcohol Raise Breast Cancer Risk and the Risk of Benign Breast Disease?
This is most likely due to the effect alcohol has on estrogen levels. According to studies, alcoholic beverages alter the way estrogen is metabolized and broken down by the liver – leads to higher estrogen levels. Estrogen is a hormone that promotes the growth of the most common types of breast cancer. Although estrogen doesn’t directly cause breast cancer, if a cancer-causing mutation occurs in a breast cell, estrogen can fuel its development.
Teenage Use of Alcohol and Benign Breast Disease: The Bottom Line?
This is one more good reason to discourage teenage alcohol use. Studies are showing that a woman’s risk of breast cancer later in life is affected by what she’s exposed to as a teenager and may go as far back as exposures in the womb. Tell teenage girls to say “no” to alcohol.
Pediatrics, May 2010; vol 125: pp e1081-1087.