Alcohol consumption increases the chance of breast cancer in women. A research, led by cancer biologist Chin-Yo Lin from the University of Houston says so. The research paper is published in PLOS One.
According to the team, in 2016, more than 230,000 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer: one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for women.
There are many natural causes such as heredity, hormones, and behavioural factors that contribute to the development of breast cancer. Alcohol consumption is a modifiable risk factor that increases the breast cancer risk and is also found to be associated with hormone-induced breast cancer.
As the alcohol consumption in the U.S. is very high, the researchers wanted to investigate its effect on the generation of cancer causing cells. The researchers studied alcohol’s effects on growth factors and estrogen signalling. The study was also concentrated on effects of alcohol on tamoxifen response and on the genes that contribute to causing breast cancer.
Tamoxifen is a medication that is used for treatment of breast cancer.
Medical News Today reported Lin’s purpose of conducting the breast cancer research.
“We want to provide women, in general, with more information and insight to be better able to balance their consumption of alcoholic beverages with the potential health risks.”
He added that this includes “cancer patients who may want to take into consideration the potential detrimental effects alcohol consumption might have on treatments and modify their behavior and habits accordingly.”
The researchers were established that alcohol increases estrogen-induced cell proliferation.
They discovered that alcohol promotes expression of a cancer-causing gene, called BRAF. Even in the absence of estrogen, it mimics and enhances estrogen’s effects, increasing the risk of breast cancer. They also found that alcohol adversely affects the ability of tamoxifen to suppress cancer cells.
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Including cancer, various other major health problems are said to have a close connection with heavy drinking. These health risks include cardiovascular diseases, liver cirrhosis, dementia, high blood pressure, and more. Apart from breast cancer, other types of cancers have also been found to be induced by alcohol consumption. Other alcohol-induced cancers usually show up in the mouth, liver, and esophagus. The main reason for these types of cancers is that our body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde — a known carcinogen.
“Alcohol consumption is prevalent among women in the U.S. and is a risk factor for breast cancer. Our research shows alcohol enhances the actions of estrogen in driving the growth of breast cancer cells and diminishes the effects of the cancer drug tamoxifen on blocking estrogen by increasing the levels of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF,” Lin said about their findings.
According to Lin, their findings suggest that exposure to alcohol affects several cancer-causing mechanisms. Also, he believes that college going women could be more affected by these findings, as they are often in environments where heavy or binge drinking takes place.
The researchers are hopeful that their findings can be used in cancer prevention, but the results are also relevant for women undergoing hormone replacement therapy for menopause.
“Hope these and future findings will provide information and motivation to promote healthy behavioral choices, as well as potential targets for chemoprevention strategies to ultimately decrease breast cancer incidents and deaths within the next decade.”
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