Alcohol's Effects on Breast Cancer in Women

Alcohol Res. 2020 Jun 18;40(2):11. doi: 10.35946/arcr.v40.2.11. eCollection 2020.


Globally, more than 2 million new cases of breast cancer are reported annually. The United States alone has more than 496,000 new cases every year. The worldwide prevalence is approximately 6.8 million cases. Although many risk factors for breast cancer are not modifiable, understanding the role of the factors that can be altered is critical. Alcohol consumption is a modifiable factor. Studies of alcohol in relation to breast cancer incidence have included hundreds of thousands of women. Evidence is consistent that intake, even intake of less than 10-15 grams per day, is associated with increased risk of this disease. In addition, evidence, although less extensive, shows that possible early indicators of risk, such as benign breast disease and increased breast density, are associated with alcohol consumption. Evidence is less strong for differences based on geographic region, beverage type, drinking pattern, or breast cancer subtype. Some studies have examined the association between alcohol and recurrence or survival after a breast cancer diagnosis. These findings are less consistent. Public awareness of alcohol as a risk factor for breast cancer is low, and public health measures to increase that awareness are warranted.

Keywords: alcohol drinking; breast cancer incidence; breast cancer survival; drinking pattern; women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Ethanol