While it is known that lowering alcohol intake reduces breast cancer risk, the relationship of drinking in adolescence/ young adulthood prior to first pregnancy and risk of disease has not previously been studied. In this study alcohol consumption in the years before pregnancy was associated with an increased risk for breast cancer. There was also an increased risk for benign breast disease. The theory is that the bad effects of alcohol on breast tissue are magnified when the breast tissue is developing and vulnerable between the start of menses and pregnancy. The longer this time interval as we know, the higher your risk of breast cancer.
As with some of the more serious risk factors for breast cancer (female sex, age, family history), the time interval between menses and first pregnancy is not something that is easily modified. But alcohol consumption is something that a woman can take full control over. This study gives us compelling reasons to inform our younger sisters and daughters that drinking when you are young may have negative impacts on breast health - in addition to its other deleterious effects!
As ever, we encourage you to remain vigilant about your body so that you may enjoy your best possible health. Limiting alcohol, especially when we are young, is a good plan. And we ask you to share this information with the young women in your life.
Originally published 8/29/13 on mammographykc.com.