Alcohol Consumption ‘Main Risk Factor’ for Breast Cancer in Marin County Residents, Study Finds
Alcohol consumption is the "main risk factor" for breast cancer among women living in Marin County, where rates are among the nation's highest, according to a study by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco, the Los Angeles Times reports. Researchers were studying women in Marin because the county recorded 199 cases of breast cancer a year for every 100,000 white, non-Latino women; the national average is 144 cases (Haines, Los Angeles Times, 5/9). The study, which was posted online last week in the journal Breast Cancer Research, surveyed 285 Marin women with breast cancer and compared them to 286 Marin women of similar age who did not have breast cancer, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The study examined a variety of factors and found that most well-known risk factors for breast cancer -- family history of the disease, late childbearing and hormone replacement therapy use -- did not differ much between the women in the two groups. However, women who had at least two drinks a day were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and women who had at least three drinks a day were almost four times as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as women who drank less (Torassa, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/6). The study was able to identify factors that differentiated those with cancer from those without the disease because the population of Marin County is homogenous -- "educated, white and affluent," the Los Angeles Times reports. "Alcohol use, especially among a population with all the other risk factors, is an important factor that might make a difference in pushing someone into breast cancer or not," Margaret Wrensch, a UCSF professor of epidemiology and lead author of the study, said (Los Angeles Times, 5/9).
The study also found that breast cancer rates were not related to how long the women lived in Marin County, which "casts doubt on persistent suspicions" that there is an environmental cause for the high breast cancer rates such as tainted water or air, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/8). "It's not the geography; it's the demography," Tina Clarke, an epidemiologist at the Northern California Cancer Center, said (Los Angeles Times, 5/9). However, Janice Barlow, executive director of Marin Breast Cancer Watch, said more studies were needed before environmental factors could be ruled out, adding, "It's not just one disease -- there are many different kinds of breast cancer, and there are many different factors that initiate or promote it" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/8). The study is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.