The link between breast cancer and alcohol intake has bounced back and forth between no risk and increased risk.
The past few years has seen this association settling in on the recommendation that alcohol intake does increase your risk for breast cancer. The mechanism relates to the fact that alcohol raises the level of sex-steroid hormones in the bloodstream. Since sex steroids like estrogen are clearly linked to breast cancer, it might make sense that alcohol would then increase breast cancer risk.
For most of you, this is not a good recommendation and one that has not been followed by most of the population. This also remains in conflict with the fact that the risk of many other chronic conditions are lowered by moderate alcohol intake like diabetes and heart disease.
But what if you other healthy lifestyle choices could counteract this increased risk seen with alcohol intake?
That’s just what researchers looked at in this particular study. Since dietary fiber has been shown to lower the impact of elevated sex-steroid hormone levels (via decreased blood concentration and increased sex hormone–binding globulin concentration), it would seem reasonable to assume that dietary fiber would be a good candidate for offsetting the risks of alcohol intake on hormone-dependent cancers like breast cancer.
The study included 3771 women and 2771 men who completed an initial intake and were followed for an average of 12.1 years. In this time, 297 incident hormone-dependent cancer cases, including 158 breast and 123 prostate cancers, were diagnosed. Here’s what they found:
- Higher alcohol intake was directly associated with a 36% higher risk of hormone-dependent cancers (the risk specifically for breast cancer was 70% higher with no elevated risk for prostate cancer).
- But when higher alcohol intake was combined with low fiber intake, this risk skyrocketed 76% for hormone-dependent cancer (the risk specifically for breast cancer was 253% higher and prostate cancer risk was no elevated by 37%).
- These elevated risks were NOT seen in those with the highest dietary fiber intake.
Overall, it was clear that dietary choices were able to impact the risk of hormone-dependent cancers from increase alcohol intake. This finding could go a long way towards explaining some of the discrepancies seen in prior research studies looking at the links between alcohol intake and hormone-related cancers.