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Alcohol use increases the risk of hormonally sensitive breast cancers in postmenopausal women

SEATTLE - Older women with a history of alcohol use are significantly more likely than nondrinkers to be diagnosed with hormonally sensitive forms of breast cancer, including lobular carcinomas and estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) and progesterone-receptor positive (PR+) tumors, according to researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Lead author Christopher I. Li, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues report their findings in the October issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

"Women who were current drinkers who reported consuming at least 30 grams of alcohol a day - roughly the equivalent of two drinks - had an 80 percent higher risk of breast cancer compared to nondrinkers," said Li, an assistant member of Fred Hutchinson's Public Health Sciences Division.

The risk varied by cellular, or histologic, breast-cancer type. "Current consumers of two or more drinks per day had more than three times the risk of lobular cancer (a 330 percent increased risk) and a 50 percent increased risk of ductal cancer," Li said.

While lobular breast cancer, which involves the lobules, or chambers in the breast that contain milk-producing glands, accounts for only 10 percent to 15 percent of all breast-cancer cases, its incidence is on the rise. Li and colleagues earlier this year reported a 65 percent increase in lobular cancer during the past decade, a trend that may be due to the increased use of combined estrogen and progestin hormone-replacement therapy, Li said (Journal of the American Medical Association, March 19, 2003).

Ductal breast cancer, which involves the ducts that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple, accounts for about 80 percent of cases. The incidence of this form of breast cancer has remained essentially constant during the past decade.

While somewhat more difficult to diagnose than ductal breast cancers, lobular carcinomas tend to be ER+ and PR+, which means they are more responsive to hormonal therapies such a
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Contact: Kristen Woodward
kwoodwar@fhcrc.org
206-667-5095
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
30-Oct-2003


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