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Changes in alcohol intake over time found to affect disease risk

Post-menopausal woman who drank two extra alcoholic drinks a day over a five-year period increased their risk of breast cancer, but reduced their chance of developing coronary heart disease, a new study suggests.

Post-menopausal woman who drank two extra alcoholic drinks a day over a five-year period increased their risk of breast cancer, but reduced their chance of developing coronary heart disease, a new study suggests.

Danish researchers who tracked 21,523 women found a 30% higher risk of breast cancer and a 20% lower risk of coronary heart disease in comparison with women who did not change their alcohol intake. Data on alcohol intake came from questionnaires completed by participants.

While many studies have linked alcohol with increased risk of breast cancer and decreased risk of coronary heart disease, most evidence is from observational studies. Earlier studies correlated alcohol intake measured at one point in time with disease incidence. Little has been known about the effect of a change in alcohol intake.

‘There may be some benefit with low to moderate intakes of alcohol, but this could be outweighed by an increased risk of breast cancer and other morbidities,’ the authors said. ‘Risk of ischaemic heart disease can be reduced substantially by other lifestyle changes, as well as by drugs such as statins which are shown to be effective in primary prevention.’

Reference

Dam M et al (2016) Five-year change in alcohol intake and risk of breast cancer and coronary heart disease among postmenopausal women: prospective cohort study. BMJ.

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