Alcohol metabolism, alcohol intake, and breast cancer risk: a sister-set analysis using the Breast Cancer Family Registry

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2007 Dec;106(2):281-8. doi: 10.1007/s10549-007-9498-7. Epub 2007 Feb 1.


Moderate alcohol intake has been consistently associated with a modest (30-50%) increase in breast cancer risk, but it remains unclear if certain individuals have higher susceptibility to the harmful effects of alcohol intake. Individuals differ in their ability to metabolize alcohol through genetic differences in alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), the enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of approximately 80% of ethanol to acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Using data from the Breast Cancer Family Registry (n = 811 sister sets), we examined whether sisters with breast cancer differ with respect to alcohol consumption and alcohol metabolism (measured by polymorphisms in ADH1B and ADH1C) compared to their sisters without breast cancer. Neither alcohol drinking nor alcohol metabolizing ADH1B and ADH1C genotypes were associated with breast cancer risk. However, only 19% and 42% of sisters were discordant by ADH1B and ADH1C, respectively, and even fewer were discordant by both genotype and alcohol intake, making it difficult to detect differences if they existed.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Ethanol / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors


  • Ethanol
  • ADH1B protein, human
  • ADH1C protein, human
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase