Alcohol may improve breast cancer survival
April 9th, 2013
12:41 PM ET

Alcohol may improve breast cancer survival

Although drinking alcohol is known to be a risk factor for developing breast cancer, a new study suggests that alcohol may not have any effect on whether you survive the disease.  In fact, researchers found that being a moderate drinker may actually improve your chances of survival.

"The results of the study showed there was no adverse relationship between drinking patterns before diagnosis and breast cancer survival," said Polly Newcomb, director of the cancer prevention program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the lead author of the study.

"We actually found that relative to non-drinkers there were modestly improved survival rates for moderate alcohol intake."

The researchers followed close to 25,000 breast cancer patients for an average of 11 years, and found that women who drank moderately - three to six drinks per week - before developing breast cancer were 15% less likely to die from the disease.

More importantly, she says, drinking after diagnosis also didn't appear to impact survival.

"Whether you drink post diagnostically - again, moderately - doesn't appear to adversely impact your mortality," Newcomb said.

So does that mean women who have a history of breast cancer are free to drink up?

"The results of our study would suggest that moderate alcohol consumption after a diagnosis of breast cancer does not adversely impact either breast cancer-specific or overall survival," she said.

Another benefit of moderate alcohol intake - a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease in women with breast cancer, according to Newcomb. "Cardiovascular disease is importantly being recognized as a contributor to mortality among breast cancer survivors."

The study found that women who drank those same three to six drinks per week before being diagnosed with breast cancer were 25% less likely to develop heart disease.

The bottom line, says Newcomb? "This is good news for women because it might help direct some of their choices after their diagnosis."

Dr. Sandra Swain, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which published the study Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology,  agreed the findings are good news for breast cancer patients, but cautioned that more research should be done to confirm them.

soundoff (182 Responses)
  1. Carrie

    Really?! After reading and being told that as an estrogen positive breast cancer survivor that I should avoid alcohol, I am shocked by this article! I hope it's true though. Now I can have a glass or two of wine with dinner without fear or guilt! Yay!!

    April 9, 2013 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. lisasiobhanallen

    My wife has stage IV breast cancer and I know for a fact that alcohol has helped me survive the last 8 years!

    April 9, 2013 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Hannah


    Cedar Sinai did a research study regarding red wine, women and breast cancer. The women who drank the red wine had less estrogen circulating in their system than the control group who did not drink red wine. You can google the study.

    April 10, 2013 at 02:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Alexis

    Everything in moderation...

    April 10, 2013 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Breast cancer is the second most commonly occurring cancer among women, mainly in US. It is our duty to maintain our health and to lead a healthy life. Healthy diet is creates a magic in preventing the cancer as well as heals the cancer too.

    April 11, 2013 at 04:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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    may be alcohol can help them

    April 17, 2013 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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  12. bix

    carrie i to am estrogen positive. i've never been informed either way. since my oncologist is right across the street from fred hutchinson (seattle cancer care alliance) i definately am going to look into this, i could use an enthusastic 'go ahead! enjoy!' diagnois & would make "survial" seem more like my pre-cancer self again! all my best to u carrie! do enjoy! 🙂

    May 4, 2013 at 02:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Is this another study sponsored by the wine industry?? I don't doubt the findings, but other studies show that if you drink grape juice – or better yet just eat grapes – you get the same health benefits as from wine without the adverse effects of alcohol. A bowl of strawberries with a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream is probably also healthy as a unit, but everything healthy about it comes from the strawberries, while the cream and sugar are negatives in terms of health benefit. I'm not against moderate alcohol consumption, but I think the way these studies are reporting can be a bit misleading. http://www.examiner.com/article/grapes-and-grape-juice-are-as-effective-as-wine-for-preventing-heart-disease.

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