The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Alcohol and breast cancer survival

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Findings from studies on alcohol and breast cancer recurrence (a return of breast cancer) and survival are mixed.

Some findings suggest breast cancer survivors who drink alcohol after diagnosis have an increased risk of recurrence and breast cancer mortality (death from breast cancer).

Other studies have shown no difference in recurrence or breast cancer mortality between those who drink alcohol in moderation (less than 1 drink a day for women) and those who are non-drinkers.

One reason for these mixed findings may be that drinking in moderation has some health benefits. It may lower the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and overall mortality (death from any cause) [1-2].

Excessive alcohol drinking has no health benefits, only health risks.

Learn more about alcohol and breast cancer survival.

Learn about alcohol and breast cancer risk.

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

Study selection criteria: Prospective cohort studies with at least 1,000 participants, pooled and meta-analyses.

All studies measured alcohol intake after breast cancer diagnosis.  

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.  

Study

Study
Population
(number of participants)

Follow-up
(years)

Survivors Who Drank Moderate Amounts of Alcohol versus Survivors Who Were Non-drinkers,
RR (95% CI)

 Breast Cancer Recurrence

Breast Cancer Mortality

Prospective cohort studies

Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study [3]

7,835

8

 

0.88
(0.41-1.87)

Collaborative Women’s Longevity Study [4]

4,881

11

 

0.80
(0.49-1.32)

WHEL Study [5]

3,088

7

0.91
(0.71-1.18)

 

LACE Study [6]

1,897

7

1.35
(1.00-1.83)

1.51
(1.00-2.29)

Breast Cancer Family Registry – New York [7]

1,116

9

 

0.96
(0.49-1.89)

Pooled and meta-analyses

After Breast Cancer Pooling Project [8-9]

9,329

10

1.08
(0.89-1.30)*

1.05
(0.84-1.32)

Gou et al. [10]

  12 studies

 

1.17
(0.80-1.73)

1.08
(0.94-1.25)

* Among survivors who were diagnosed with breast cancer after menopause, women who drank 4 or more alcoholic drinks a week had an increased risk of recurrence compared to non-drinkers, 1.19 (1.01-1.40).

Among survivors who had estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers, those who drank 7 or more alcoholic drinks a week had an increased risk of late recurrence (5 or more years after diagnosis) compared to non-drinkers, 1.28 (1.01-1.62).

References

  1. Fuchs CS, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, et al. Alcohol consumption and mortality among women. N Engl J Med. 332(19):1245-50, 1995.
  2. Forman JP, Stampfer MJ, Curhan GC. Diet and lifestyle risk factors associated with incident hypertension in women. JAMA. 302(4):401-11, 2009.
  3. Lowry SJ, Kapphahn K, Chlebowski R, Li CI. Alcohol use and breast cancer survival among participants in the Women’s Health Initiative. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 25(8):1268-73, 2016.
  4. Newcomb PA, Kampman E, Trentham-Dietz A, et al. Alcohol consumption before and after breast cancer diagnosis: associations with survival from breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other causes. J Clin Oncol. 31(16):1939-46, 2013.
  5. Flatt SW, Thomson CA, Gold EB, et al. Low to moderate alcohol intake is not associated with increased mortality after breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 19(3):681-8, 2010.
  6. Kwan ML, Kushi LH, Weltzien E, et al. Alcohol consumption and breast cancer recurrence and survival among women with early-stage breast cancer: the life after cancer epidemiology study. J Clin Oncol. 28(29):4410-6, 2010.
  7. Zeinomar N, Thai A, Cloud AJ, McDonald JA, Liao Y, Terry MB. Alcohol consumption and breast cancer-specific and all-cause mortality in women diagnosed with breast cancer at the New York site of the Breast Cancer Family Registry. PLoS One. 12(12):e0189118, 2017.
  8. Kwan ML, Chen WY, Flatt SW, et al. Postdiagnosis alcohol consumption and breast cancer prognosis in the after breast cancer pooling project. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 22(1):32-41, 2013.
  9. Nechuta S, Chen WY, Cai H, et al. A pooled analysis of post-diagnosis lifestyle factors in association with late estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer prognosis. Int J Cancer. 138(9):2088-97, 2016.
  10. Gou YJ, Xie DX, Yang KH, et al. Alcohol consumption and breast cancer survival: a meta- analysis of cohort studies. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 14(8):4785-90, 2013.

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