Alcohol and Increased Breast Cancer Risk

I recently attended a heart screening event and was told that having one glass of red wine per day can reduce the risk of heart disease in women by 30 percent. But I have a family history of breast cancer and have heard about an increase in risk for breast cancer when alcohol is consumed. Is the benefit worth the risk for me?

Breast Cancer

Q: I recently attended a heart screening event and was told that having one glass of red wine per day can reduce the risk of heart disease in women by 30 percent. But I have a family history of breast cancer and have heard about an increase in risk for breast cancer when alcohol is consumed. Is the benefit worth the risk for me?


A: Drinking alcohol in moderation may be good for your heart, but drinking as little as half a glass a wine per day may raise a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. Having a glass of wine on occasion is acceptable but regular consumption of alcohol on a daily basis is what increases the risk.

Health benefits of red wine are related to one of its nonalcoholic components, called resveratrol. Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol (a natural antioxidant), found in the skin and seeds of grapes used to make wine and is especially prevalent in raspberries, peanuts and other plants. The alcohol merely serves as a vehicle for which to get the antioxidant. However, you don't have to be a wine drinker to reap the benefits of resveratrol-this polyphenol is also found in a variety of fruits, vegetables and even tea.

In weighing the risk to benefit ratio of one drink of red wine per day for heart health versus breast cancer risk, start by talking it over with your healthcare provider. Then, try taking a more holistic view of foods in general. If wine is off-limits for you, don't worry, any antioxidants found in foods are thought to work synergistically and offer protection against disease. What you can do is eat a colorful abundance of vegetables and fruits every day to get the widest possible range of antioxidants and other nutrients that can help to fight both cancer and heart disease.

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