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My life experience has merged both alcohol and breast cancer into quite the unique recipe.

I am a former binge drinker and a woman who has had breast cancer. 

Part of my healing through breast cancer has been to look intensively at the role alcohol has played in my life, including whether this might have been linked to my diagnosis and increased breast cancer risk.

What I discovered during my research is something I want to share more widely as I don’t believe this information is broadly known.

I want to emphasise I am not a doctor or offering any medical advice. I am here to share my experience, what I have learned and always recommend that you do your own research.


(all my facts and statistics are sourced from the Drink Less For Your Breasts campaign funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program)


  • 1 out of every 8 women (12%) will develop breast cancer in her lifetime

  •  No matter how much alcohol or what alcohol you drink, if you were born female, alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer 

  •  90% of breast cancer cases do not have a known genetic link

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So what exactly is the risk?

Lots of studies all over the world have looked at drinking and breast cancer risk - based on the the data, the increased risk is approx 14% for each alcoholic drink per day (7 drinks per week)

For drinkers, a 14% increased risk means that your risk of developing breast cancer is 14% higher than someone who doesn’t drink. 

And the risk increases with every drink you have - confirming only light to moderate drinking does increase your risk.

What about binge drinking during teenage years/young adulthood?

Only a few small studies have been undertaken in this area and those that have do report an increase in breast cancer risk but there are a number of studies now looking at the effect of exposure to alcohol between a woman’s first period and her first pregnancy and whether this can affect a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer. Preliminary results are showing that this is the case which is why health campaigns are now being targeted at younger women in the USA.

How does alcohol increase the risk of breast cancer? 

Alcohol messes with your estrogen levels - drinking alcohol increases your levels of estrogen. Women who regularly drink alcohol show higher levels in their bodies. Estrogen can encourage breast cells to grow and multiply, which can lead to cancer.

Alcohol messes with your folate levels - when you drink alcohol it’s harder for the body to absorb folate and other nutrients. Folate is important in how DNA is made and maintained. If the way DNA is made and maintained is disrupted, it can become damaged and is more likely to become cancerous.

Alcohol breaks down into acetaldehyde - when you drink your body breaks it down into an even more toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which is a carcinogen that damages your DNA and keeps your body from repairing the damage which makes it more likely to start growing out of control and become cancerous.

What can I do now?


Educate yourself.


The Drink Less For Your Breasts website is a great place to start. 

  • Share this information with other people - if you have daughters, nieces, young women in your life start telling them early
  • Any reduction in your drinking will reduce your risk. No matter how much alcohol or what type you drink alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer
  • Check your breasts regularly. If you are 40 or over then make sure you have a mammogram every 1-2 years

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