Cancer warning for women who like a glass of wine or three

Study shows that those who enjoy wine with dinner are putting their lives at risk

They are the problem drinkers missed by government efforts to curb alcohol misuse – women, often middle-class and professional, who share a bottle of wine with a partner over dinner each night, putting their health at risk.

Unnoticed because they do not cause a social nuisance or public disorder, women who quietly drink three or more glasses of wine, or equivalent, a day increase their risk of breast cancer by up to half, research shows.

Alcohol is known to increase the risk of several cancers, in both sexes, including bowel cancer. But breast tissue is thought to be particularly sensitive to its carcinogenic effects according to a review of research by Helmut Seiz, of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and colleagues.

Women who consume one alcoholic drink a day have an increased risk of breast cancer of 4 per cent, in line with previous findings, based on an analysis of 113 studies involving 77,000 light drinkers. Among heavy drinkers, defined as three or more drinks a day, the risk is increased to 40 to 50 per cent. Overall, alcohol drinking accounts for one in 20 cases of cancer in northern Europe and one in 10 in countries such as Italy and France, where drinking is more widespread among women.

Breast cancer has soared in recent decades with new cases doubling since the early 1970s, partly driven by the rise in alcohol consumption. It is now the commonest cancer, with almost 49,000 cases and 12,000 deaths a year, despite affecting only one sex.

However, it is less common than heart disease and strokes, which together kill 200,000 people a year – and alcohol is known to protect against these diseases. In women, as little as one drink a week cuts the risk of heart attack and stroke by 36 per cent according to a 2007 European study.

The upshot is that light drinking is overall protective – but heavier drinking is associated with rapidly increasing risks. Experts say weighing up these risks is a matter of personal choice. Although heart disease is more common, cancer is more feared. Women with a family history of heart disease may feel differently from those with a history of cancer.

Three times more alcohol is now consumed per head as in the 1950s and it is estimated to cause 30,000 to 40,000 deaths a year. In addition to bowel cancer and breast cancer, there is also evidence that alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the liver, oesophagus, mouth, pharynx and larynx. In total, scientists estimate alcohol causes 20,000 cases of cancer a year.

The authors of the latest study, published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, suggest the effect of alcohol on the breast may be hormonal by raising levels of oestrogen. But they show no acknowledgment of the fact that many people enjoy a drink which plays an important part in their social lives.

One glass

Increases risk of breast cancer by 4 to 5 per cent.

Two glasses

Increase the risk by 25 to 35 per cent.

Three glasses

Increase the risk by 40 to 50 per cent.

News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
News
The show will be billed as Clarkson, Hammond and May Live
people
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence