When COVID was on the rise, so was the consumption of alcohol among women.

Does this hit home for you?

According to the U.S. National Pandemic Emotional Impact Report, compared to men, women reported higher rates of pandemic-related changes in productivity, sleep, mood, health-related worries, and frustrations with not being able to do enjoyable activities. Women with children under 18 had higher rates of clinically significant anxiety. They noted that this is because women are most likely to shoulder the household tasks, caregiving, and child-rearing. COVID stay-at-home orders led to decreased childcare support and the additional burdens of remote schooling.

Drinking alcohol is a typical response to coping with stress in our society. It is glorified and even romanticized – much like tobacco was back in the day. The report above found that alcohol consumption increased after Sept 11th terrorist attack, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. However, COVID-19 is different in the scope and impact it has had on alcohol use.   

I have previously blogged about alcohol’s impact on breast cancer; however, because of the current rise in alcohol consumption in women, I feel it is essential to give you some information that might help you in evaluating your alcohol consumption. 

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, research (published June 2020) consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages — beer, wine, and liquor — increases a woman’s risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol can impact your estrogen levels and other hormones associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Alcohol may damage DNA in cells which may increase breast cancer risk.

When they compare women who don’t drink at all to those drinking three alcoholic drinks per week, they found that the alcohol consumption group may have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. It is estimated that breast cancer risk may increase by 10% for each additional drink you have per week.

I don’t know about you, but I found this surprising.

If this is surprising to you, you are not alone. The U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health reports a study found, “In general, awareness of the risk of alcohol for certain types of cancer was low to moderate, reflecting a need to inform people not only that alcohol increases the risk of cancer, but which types of cancer are most highly associated alcohol. ACS (American Cancer Society) specifies seven types of cancer that are linked to alcohol consumption including mouth, throat, laryngeal, esophageal, liver, colorectal, and breast cancer.”

If you have a daughter or granddaughter, who is going to use you as a model of behavior,  BreastCancer.org tells us that research shows, “Teen and tween girls aged 9 to 15 who drink three to five drinks a week have three times the risk of developing benign breast lumps. (Certain categories of non-cancerous breast lumps are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer later in life.).”

Are your breasts dense??? Please don’t take offense, I have dense breasts, and my breasts are brilliant! Over half of the female population over 40 who get mammograms are in the “dense breasts” club. According to the NIH National Cancer Institute, our breasts contain glandular, connective, and fat tissue. If you have dense breasts, you have higher amounts of glandular tissue and fibrous connective tissue and low amounts of fatty or fatty breast tissue. So, if your mammogram tech mentioned this during your mammogram or your mamo report says that you have dense breasts, it is essential to know that studies show drinking alcohol may affect the density of your breasts.

According to Cancer.org, “Drinking even small amounts of alcohol is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. Alcohol can raise estrogen levels in the body, which may explain some of the increased risks.

Avoiding or cutting back on alcohol may be an important way for many women to lower their risk of breast cancer.

They explain that the exact way that alcohol affects our cancer risk isn’t completely understood. However, here is the list of ways alcohol can raise our risk:

  • Damage to body tissue  – This can result in DNA changes which can be a step toward cancer.
  • Effect on other harmful chemicals – It may slow the body down in its ability to get rid of harmful chemicals
  • Effect on the absorption of folate or other nutrients – Folate is a vitamin that cells need in the body to stay healthy. Low folate levels may play a role in the risk of cancers such as breast and colorectal cancer.
  • Effects on estrogen or other hormones –Alcohol can raise the level of estrogen and affect a women’s breast cancer risk.
  • Effects on body weight – Too much alcohol can add extra calories and contribute to weight gain. Being overweight is known to increase the risk of many types of cancer.

Ladies, you may not be thrilled with this research. Please do not shoot the messenger!!! It is always best to gather info so that you can understand and evaluate the risks vs. benefits of those alcoholic beverages.

We all know that behavioral modification if done in the extreme, is often not sustainable. I have chosen to moderate my alcohol intake and frequently substitute it with delicious mocktails. It is easy to order a Virgin Bloody Mary, Margarita, Mojito, or Pina Colada.  Many restaurants have an extensive, yummy alcohol-free menu.   Last night, I put a handful of organic raspberries in the bottom of a champagne flute, filled to the brim with sparkling water – it was yummy.



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