According to research from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) who drink alcohol are at an increased risk for breast cancer.
Results of the study, which was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, indicate an elevated risk for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, the most common kind, but not for the less frequent estrogen receptor negative type.
The study was conducted by Professor Alicja Wolk and her colleagues and reviewed records on alcohol consumption collected from 1987 to 1990 and in 1997. The data was taken from 51,847 postmenopausal women. By the middle of 2004, 1,188 breast cancer cases were reported.
According to Wolk, the findings indicate a combination of HRT and alcohol increases breast cancer risk. She advised that "for those women who have to take hormones, what they can do is avoid alcohol so it will not have a multiplier effect on the risk for cancer."
Increasingly, women have become wary about HRT after reports in 2002 and earlier this year that claimed it could have serious negative side effects including elevated risk of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer.
Currently, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide with more than a million cases diagnosed – and 400,000 deaths – each year.
Many factors beside alcohol and HRT can contribute to increased risk. Women with a family history of breast cancer, an early puberty, late menopause, obesity, and not having children may also be at increased risk of developing breast cancer.