A new report from two major research groups has linked alcohol — even as little as one glass of wine or beer each day — to breast cancer.
The finding comes from the latest paper in a series that explores the link between cancer and lifestyle factors like diet and exercise.
For the report, scientists from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) looked at 119 studies from around the globe. In total, they incorporated data from roughly 12 million women and included some 260,000 cases of breast cancer.
They found strong evidence that drinking one glass of wine or beer per day increases the risk of developing both pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. (Post-menopausal is the most common.)
But their conclusions aren’t all bad: Vigorous exercise was also shown to be linked with a significant decrease in the risk of breast cancer. The women in the studies who were the most active had a lower risk of developing cancer compared to those who exercised the least.
“There are no guarantees when it comes to cancer, but it’s empowering to know you can do something to lower your risk,” Alice Bender, a registered dietitian and the head of nutrition programs for the AICR, tells Business Insider.
This isn’t the first study to highlight a connection between alcohol and cancer.
In its report on cancer-causing agents, the US Department of Health and Human Services lists alcohol as a known human
Research highlighted by the National Cancer Institute suggests that the more alcohol you drink — particularly the more you drink regularly — the higher your risk of developing cancer.
“We’re not saying no one should ever drink at all, we’re just saying if you do drink, even trying to keep it down to less than one drink a day would be a smart choice,” Bender says.
The AICR and WCRF’s work also made headlines last year when a study found that eating red meats like bacon was linked with an increased risk of lower-stomach cancer.
But before you ban bacon from your breakfast table or pour out the wine in your cupboard, keep in mind that the researchers are highlighting a link between certain dietary choices and a moderate uptick in the overall chances that people will develop cancer in their lifetime. They are not saying that every slice of bacon you eat or glass of rosé you drink jacks up your chances of getting the disease.
“Cancer is complicated,” Susan Higginbotham, AICR’s vice president of research told Business Insider when discussing last year’s bacon study. The findings, she said, are “showing there’s an increase in risk and we have ideas about why it might be happening, but we’re not sure.”
In other words, wine and bacon are not the only important factors — things like your genes, smoking habits, and exposure to pollutants can play a role in your chances of getting cancer, too. Eating and exercise habits, though, are easier to modify.
“It’s good to look at where you are with diet and physical activity and look at places where you might improve and just start every day to take some simple steps to decrease your risk and improve your health,” Bender says. “A little bit of change can make a real difference.”
More from Erin Brodwin:
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