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Can Alcohol Increase Your Breast Cancer Risk?

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Can Alcohol Increase Your Breast Cancer Risk?

How often do you enjoy a glass of wine after work? What about a drink on the weekend with friends? Research shows women who drink alcohol—even in moderation─may be at an increased risk for developing breast cancer.

The research

A 2017 report from the American Institute for Cancer Research found strong evidence that drinking the equivalent of a small glass of wine or beer a day (approximately 10 g alcohol content) can increase pre-menopausal breast cancer risk by 5 percent and post-menopausal breast cancer risk by 9 percent.  

Research also shows women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who don’t drink at all. The risk of breast cancer can also increase another 10 percent for each additional drink women regularly consume daily.

The mechanisms behind why alcohol increases breast cancer risk include:

  • Alcohol can cause damage at the cellular and genetic level, resulting in DNA damage.
  • Empty calories from alcohol can result in unhealthy weight gain. Excessive body fat can lead to a higher risk of breast cancer. 
  • Alcohol can lead to increased estrogen levels and other hormones associated with breast cancer.
  • Alcohol users are more likely to have increased amounts of folic acid in their systems, as alcohol can inhibit folate absorption. This can increase the risk.

How much is too much?

While you may not eliminate alcohol from your diet, controlling your consumption is critical.

Control alcohol is one of Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s 8 Steps to Get Cooperized. He recommends men and women have no more than one drink per day and keep in mind portion size.

A standard* drink portion is 14 g of alcohol. In the United States, a standard drink can include:

  • 12 oz. of regular beer (about 5 percent alcohol)
  • 8-9 oz. of malt liquor (about 7 percent alcohol)
  • 5 oz. of wine (about 12 percent alcohol)
  • 1.5 oz. of distilled liquor (about 40 percent alcohol)

If you enjoy an average of five “standard” drinks per week, such as three 5 oz. glasses of wine and two regular 12 oz. beers, that averages out to about 70 g of alcohol per week or a daily average of 10 g.  

Although this amount is considered “light drinking,” this amount of alcohol consumption has been shown to increase breast cancer risk. 

Decreasing your risk

Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services offers drink ideas that allow you to enjoy a flavorful beverage without the alcohol:

  • Mix sparkling water with a splash of either 100 percent cranberry juice or 100 percent tart cherry juice and a squeeze of lime
  • Bloody Mary without the vodka
  • Non-alcoholic beer
  • Lemonade with salt on the rim
  • Bottled sparkling grape juice cocktails (or spritzers made with these)

To schedule a one-on-one consultation with a registered dietitian nutritionist or for more information on Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit or call 972.560.2655.


*Although these standard drink portions are helpful for following health guidelines, they often do not reflect customary serving sizes. For example, a malt liquor is usually portioned in a 12 oz. bottle or can and a typical portion of wine at a restaurant is about 6-9 oz. 

Article provided by Cynthanne Duryea, RDN, LD, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.