In Remission from Breast Cancer? Don't Drink

Alcohol consumption appears to increase recurrence risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

In the Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) study, 1,897 participants diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer were evaluated for the association between alcohol intake and breast cancer recurrence and death.

The women, who were generally light drinkers, were followed for an average of 7.4 years. The study reported an increase in risk of breast cancer recurrence and breast cancer death, but no effect on total mortality, to be associated with consumption of 3 to 4 or more drinks per week when compared with women not drinking following their cancer diagnosis.

Previous research has been mixed on this topic. Almost all large studies have shown no increase in all-cause mortality for women who drink moderately following a diagnosis of breast cancer (as does this study). As for recurrence of breast cancer, most have shown no increase in risk, although one previous study of women with estrogen-receptor + tumors found an increased risk of a primary cancer developing in the contralateral breast to be associated with alcohol intake of more than 7 drinks per week.

Because of conflicting results among studies on this topic, further research will be needed to determine the extent to which alcohol following a diagnosis of breast cancer may relate to subsequent disease and death.

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Review Date: 
October 4, 2010
Last Updated:
October 4, 2010