#DrinkLessForYourBreasts urges women to help spread the word about breast cancer risk
Eighty percent of women are unaware that drinking alcohol increases their risk of developing breast cancer1, yet in the United States, there are approximately 19,000 cases of alcohol-attributable breast cancer each year. The #DrinkLessForYourBreasts initiative—the first of its kind in the U.S.—seeks to bridge this gap through a social media campaign aimed at young women in California.
With an estimated 7% to 16% increase in breast cancer risk attributed to alcohol consumption 2-3, the campaign’s goals are first, to let women know that drinking alcohol negatively impacts their breast health, and second, provide useful tools to help women better understand the risk and what alcohol does to their bodies so they can make informed choices.
From a strong body of research conducted over the past 30 years, scientists have demonstrated that alcohol increases breast cancer risk by raising hormone levels which promote tumor development and by releasing chemicals that damage DNA. In 1988, the World Health Organization declared alcohol a carcinogen.
While the campaign’s main purpose is to inform, the messages also ask women to consider their breast health when deciding when and how much to drink. Even reducing their drinking by small amounts, such as taking one night off or replacing a drink with a non-alcoholic beverage, will lower the risk.
“Over time, having just one drink a day will increase your risk,” Principle Investigator and Scientist Priscilla Martinez said. “While there is no single cause of breast cancer, and instead multiple factors are at play, including ones that we cannot control like genes, environmental exposures, and physical attributes such as breast density, there are lifestyle decisions that also play a role.
Our campaign is meant to support women, not shame them or blame them. We’d like women to simply know about the risk so they can decide for themselves.”
The campaign, funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program, of the University of California, was developed in collaboration with an advisory panel of state experts and young Californian women who responded to a survey on drinking and their health and participated in a series of virtual focus groups. The campaign launches mid-February and runs for six weeks.
About the Alcohol Research Group
For sixty years, the Alcohol Research Group (ARG) has been actively engaged in critically-needed alcohol- and other drug-related public health research. We study drinking and other drug use and how these and other factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, sexual identity, socioeconomic disparities, and environmental differences affect health. ARG is also home to the NIAAA-funded National Alcohol Research Center and training program.
ARG is a program of the Public Health Institute, an independent nonprofit organization, dedicated to promoting health, well-being and quality of life for people throughout California, across the nation and around the world. Please visit www.phi.org.
This research was supported by funds from the California Breast Cancer Research Program, of the University of California, Grant Number 25QB-0500.
For the Editors
- Sinclair J, McCann M, Sheldon E, et al. (2019). The acceptability of addressing alcohol consumption as a modifiable risk factor for breast cancer: a mixed method study within breast screening services and symptomatic breast clinics. BMJ Open 2019;9:e027371. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027371
- Hamajima N, Hirose K, Tajima K, Rohan T, Calle EE, Heath CW Jr, Coates RJ, Liff JM, Talamini R, Chantarakul N, et al. (2002). Alcohol, tobacco and breast cancer–collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 53 epidemiological studies, including 58,515 women with breast cancer and 95,067 women without the disease. Br J Cancer, 87(11):1234-45. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6600596.
- Allen, NE, Beral, V, Casabonne, D, Wan Kan, S, Reeves, GK, et al, (2009). Moderate alcohol intake and cancer incidence in women. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 101(5), 296–305. doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djn514