Alcohol consumption and breast cancer in the epidemiologic follow-up study of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

N Engl J Med. 1987 May 7;316(19):1169-73. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198705073161901.


We investigated the relation between alcohol consumption and breast cancer in the Epidemiologic Follow-up Study of the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a cohort study based on sample of the U.S. population. A total of 7188 women 25 to 74 years of age who were examined during the period 1971 through 1975 were included in the analysis. Information about alcohol consumption was obtained during the base-line interview. The median follow-up period for this cohort was 10 years. One hundred twenty-one cases of breast cancer that developed after the baseline examination were identified through hospital records or death certificates. The relative-risk estimate for any amount of drinking relative to no drinking was 1.5 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.1 to 2.2). The estimates for three levels of consumption, from the lowest to the highest, were 1.4 (confidence interval, 0.9 to 2.3), 1.5 (0.9 to 2.6), and 1.6 (1.0 to 2.7), in comparison to no drinking at all. These relative-risk estimates were not materially affected by adjustment for known risk factors for breast cancer or for several dietary factors. The results of this study, consistent with those of two other cohort studies and a number of case-control studies, suggest that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with an elevation in the risk of breast cancer of 50 to 100 percent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / adverse effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk
  • United States