Thursday, 26 July 2012

Alcohol and breast cancer

Alcohol and breast cancer. The breast, August 2012, Vol. 21(4), p.426-427.

Seitz, H.K.

Ethanol consumption is a major health problem worldwide and is responsible for more than 200 diseases. The World Health Organization has calculated that alcohol accounts for approximately 1.8 million deaths per year (3.2% of all deaths) including addiction, liver cirrhosis and cancer. Epidemiology has convincingly shown that chronic alcohol ingestion is a significant risk factor for the development of cancer of the upper alimentary tract (oropharynx, larynx and oesophagus), for the colorectum, the liver and the female breast. Recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has identified all alcoholic beverages as carcinogenic to humans and acetaldehyde as a carcinogen. Compared to other organs, the breast seems especially sensitive towards the carcinogenic action of ethanol as breast cancer risk starts already at very low daily ethanol consumption without any threshold. As ethanol use is widespread and breast cancer is the most frequent cancer in women in USA and in Europe, alcohol as a risk factor for breast cancer is of public concern. In contrast to the liver and the upper gastrointestinal tract, mechanisms by which ethanol stimulates mammary carcinogenesis are still unclear, complex and not well understood.