A study finds that women who drink heavily at a younger age may face difficult health consequences later on in life.
The study discovered that the risk of getting breast cancer at an older age was tied to how much alcohol is consumed before a first full-term pregnancy.
Conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the study is the first to demonstrate a connection between adolescent and early adulthood drinking habits and the risk of breast cancer.
Earlier research has focused on how adolescent drinking impacted the likelihood of developing non-cancerous breast disease.
Link to heavy drinking in college
The study’s co-author Graham Colditz, MD and doctor of public health, explains that those who engage in heavy drinking during college need to carefully think about future risk.
Study results indicate that a young woman who averages one drink per day between her first period and her first pregnancy that is carried to term will increase her chances of developing breast cancer by 13%.
The study, which appears in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, also found that the chances of developing proliferative benign breast disease increased by 15% for every drink consumed each day, whether it was beer, wine or liquor.
Non-cancerous breast disease still a great risk
Proliferative benign breast disease is not cancerous, but the presence of the legions associated with the disease can increase the chances of developing breast cancer by 500%, according to the study’s first author Ying Liu, MD, PhD.
The study’s results are based on data retrieved from the Nurses’ Health Study II, which examined the health histories of 91,005 mothers from 1989 to 2009. The study was designed to track health risk patterns among female nurses.
The researchers are not certain how adolescent and early adult drinking affects women who do not go on to have a full-term pregnancy, because there were few women in the study that fit that profile. As more women decline to have children, however, researchers may be able to explore that aspect of the relationship between drinking alcohol and breast health.
The study’s findings are based on the susceptibility of breast tissue cells to cancer-causing substances. This is because breast tissue is especially prone to alteration as the cells quickly multiply during adolescence.
The risk is exacerbated by the lengthening time between a girl’s first period and her first full-term pregnancy, indicating that young women should be careful about their alcohol consumption.
Parent’s spreading possible life-saving knowledge
Parents of teen girls can talk with their daughters about the association connecting adolescent and early adulthood drinking with the risk of developing breast cancer.
Studies show that when teens are aware of the risks, as well as their parents’ wishes about substance use, they are likely to make better choices related to alcohol consumption.