The latest critique from ISFAR looks at recent research on what part alcohol plays in the rates of breast cancer in Afircan-American women

The latest critique from ISFAR looks at recent research on what part alcohol plays in the rates of breast cancer in Afircan-American women

Alcohol is known to be a risk factor for breast cancer in Caucasian women, but the evidence in African-American (AA) women is limited and results from previous studies are inconclusive.

The present case-control study, based on 803 cases of breast cancer among African American women in the north-eastern part of the US, evaluated associations between recent and lifetime drinking and breast cancer risk. The authors report that there was no association between recent drinking and breast cancer risk, even when stratified by menopausal status or by hormone receptor status.

Further, their analyses suggested a slight decrease in cancer risk with alcohol consumption among women who drank when under 20 years of age (OR = 0.65; 95% CI: 0.47–0.89), regardless of menopausal or hormone receptor status.

Forum reviewers point out that this was a case-control study of breast cancer, which always presents an opportunity for recall bias, and the number of cases was not large. Further, AA women generally drink very little, so it may be difficult to determine if larger amounts of alcohol may increase breast cancer risk. 

On the other hand, the results were based on a very well-done and complete analysis, with appropriate control for known risk factors, similar results were obtained when recent (in last year) alcohol intake and long-term alcohol consumption were considered, and their finding of increased risk of breast cancer among subjects with a family history of breast cancer, a personal history of benign breast disease, and HRT use strengthen the results. 

The results of this study are consistent with those from many previous studies showing little effect of alcohol consumption on breast cancer risk among AA women. However, given that few AA women in the US drink alcohol, and those that do typically consume only small amounts, the study cannot estimate the potential effect on breast cancer among heavier drinkers.

Further, forum members believed that the decrease in the risk of breast cancer found in this study for drinking early in life (before age 20 years) may be due to residual confounding by socio-economic factors.

Overall, the present study supports previous research suggesting that the light alcohol consumption typically seen among AA women in the US is not an important factor in their risk of breast cancer. On the other hand, this paper reports similar null results between alcohol and cancer risk among Caucasian women in their study.

Current data does not necessarily indicate that there are ethnic differences in alcohol metabolism that may lead to differences between Caucasian and AA women in the association of alcohol consumption with breast cancer, and this study alone cannot be used to support such a premise.

To read the full critique, click here.

These critiques are published with the permission of The ISFAR.