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Teens Girls Who Drink At Increased Risk of Breast Cancer

Drinking while a teen is found to increase the odds of benign breast disease in the 20’s – which is a known risk factor for later in life breast caner.

Harvard University researchers say that women who drink alcohol during their teen years and into young adulthood increase their risk of benign breast disease, with those that drink heavily at a 500% elevated risk for the condition.

Benign breast disease is a known risk factor for later in life breast cancer.

The researchers took data from the Growing Up Today Study which followed the growth and habits of teen girls with annual or bi-annual questionnaires. Subjects began participation at between 9 and 15 years of age.

The researchers found that:

  • Young women who drank 6 or 7 days a week were 5 times as likely as abstainers to develop the disease
  • Young women who drank 3 – 5 days a week were 3 times as likely as abstainers to develop the disease.

Although the researchers can’t say exactly why drinking seems to increase the risks of benign breast disease, Marisa Weiss MD, a breast cancer expert, speculated, saying, “The breasts of young girls are very active and if you give them extra hormones or alcohol, then they can respond by creating lumps and bumps and things in the category of benign breast disease, and if you keep this going, it can increase the risk of breast cancer"

Lead researcher Catherine S. Berkey says the research is significant, particularly as drinking by college age youth has risen greatly over the last years. She says, "If future work confirms our findings, then clinical efforts to delay the onset of alcohol consumption may prevent some cases of benign breast disease and breast cancer."

The full research results can be read in the May edition of the journal, Pediatrics.

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