A new study finds adolescents with family history of breast cancer may reduce their risk by avoiding alcohol. The authors investigated childhood/adolescent risk factors for benign breast disease (BBD), a documented risk factor for breast cancer, among girls with a family history. Young women whose mothers or aunts had breast cancer were more likely to be diagnosed with BBD, as were those whose mothers had BBD. We asked Susan Gapstur, PhD, vice president of Epidemiology Research for her response to the report.
“Benign breast disease is a group of noncancerous conditions of the breast, and some types such as hyperplasia increase the risk of breast cancer. The major strength of this study is its prospective design in that girls self-reported their risk factors, including alcohol intake, prior to the diagnosis of BBD.
“The results suggest that drinking alcohol during adolescence and how fast one grows to peak height are associated with an increased risk of BBD in young-adulthood in girls with a family history of breast cancer and/or BBD, but not in girls without a family history. Other risk factors such as adult height, childhood BMI and waist circumference were associated with risk of BBD in girls without a family history of BBD or BC but not if girls with a family history.
“Overall, these results are based on a very few number of girls that developed BBD during adolescence and therefore should be interpreted cautiously. They provide clues for further research. Reasons for an association of alcohol intake during adolescence and risk of BBD in girls with a family history of BC/BBD but not in girls without is unclear. However, alcohol use during adolescence is never recommended.”