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Breast Cancer Risk Reduced With Moderate Red Wine Consumption

January 9, 2012

Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles are challenging the widely-held belief that the risk of breast cancer is increased by any type of alcohol consumption. Women who enjoy a regular glass of red wine could actually be reducing their risks according to a new medical study.

Alcohol, doctors have long known, increases the body´s estrogen levels, fostering the growth of cancer cells.

However, the Cedars-Sinai study found that chemicals in the skins and seeds of red grapes slightly lowered estrogen levels while elevating testosterone among pre-menopausal women who drank eight ounces of red wine nightly for about a month, reports Claire Bates for Daily Mail UK.

Alcoholic beverages, including white wine, are believed to promote the conversion of male hormones, androgens such as testosterone, which circulate in all women´s blood–into estrogen. It is also well documented that a woman´s lifetime exposure to estrogen–whether her own or estrogen that comes from medication or environmental sources–the higher her risk of developing breast cancer.

Red wine, however, acts differently, reports Melissa Healy for the Los Angeles Times. Instead of promoting the conversion of androgens to estrogen in a woman´s body, red wine appears to block that process.

Thirty-six women in the study were randomized to drink either Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay daily for almost a month, then switched to the other type of wine and blood was collected twice each month to measure hormone levels.

Researchers sought to determine whether red wine mimics the effects of aromatase inhibitors, which are prescribed to most women to prevent recurrences of breast cancer. White wine lacked the same effect.

Chrisandra Shufelt, MD, assistant director of the Women´s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and one of the study´s co-authors, said women who occasionally drink alcohol might want to reassess their choices. “If you were to have a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider a glass of red. Switching may shift your risk.”

Shufelt noted that breast cancer is the leading type of women´s cancer in the US, accounting for more than 230,000 new cases last year, or 30 percent of all female cancer diagnoses.

An estimated 39,000 women died from the disease in 2011, according to the American Cancer Society.

The study is published online in the Journal of Women’s Health.

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Source: RedOrbit Staff & Wire Reports