Does Alcohol Raise Cancer Risk in Women?

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A new study suggests alcohol consumption, including all kinds and even the smallest amounts, increases a woman's chance of getting cancer.

Once again the rules of healthy living are changing. New evidence suggests women shouldn't drink any alcohol at all.

A study of over one million middle aged women found that alcohol consumption increases a woman's risk of cancer.

"Alcohol can cause direct damage to cells. It can also increase estrogen levels which we know can increase the risk of breast cancer," Dr. Anne McTiernan of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Ctr. said.

The study found alcohol consumption may cause 13 percent of all breast, liver, rectal and esophageal cancers.

Women who have just three to six drinks a week have a two percent greater risk of cancer. Having one or two drinks a day increases your risk to five percent. If you have 15 or more drinks a week your risk of getting cancer is 15 percent.

Until now, doctors said to be heart healthy, women should drink a moderate amount of alcohol, particularly red wine, because it prevents blod clots and improves cholesterol levels. But this new study says there is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe.

Doctors say instead of drinking, women should find other ways to protect their hearts.

"They can keep their weight down, they can exercise, they can avoid smoking," McTiernan said.

So whether it's wine, beer or the hard stuff, this new study says abstain from it all to best protect yourself against cancer.

*Original broadcast February 25, 2009.

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Lorie Johnson

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