Consumer Health World — 10 January 2012

Women who drink a glass of red wine nightly may reduce their risk of breast cancer according to a new study. Photo by Ildar Sagdejev

Drinking a glass of red wine could reduce one of the risk factors for breast cancer, according to a new study in the Journal of Women’s Health.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that women who drank eight ounces of red wine every night for a month had lower levels of estrogen, a hormone which can foster the growth of cancer cells. Drinking white wine had no effect on estrogen levels.

The study challenges the widely held belief that all types of alcohol raise the risk of breast cancer, the leading type of cancer among women. 39,000 women died of the disease last year according to the American Cancer Society.

“If you were to have a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider a glass of red,” said Dr. Chrisandra Shufelt, a co-author of the study and assistant director of the Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. “Switching may shift your risk.”

In the study, 36 premenopausal women drank either a glass of red cabernet sauvignon or a glass of white chardonnay nightly for a month. Then the same women switched to the other type of wine for a month. The women were instructed not to drink any other kind of alcoholic beverage during the study. Blood was collected twice each month to measure their hormone levels.

When drinking the red wine, the women had slightly lower estrogen levels and elevated levels of testosterone. Researchers think compounds found in red wine mimic the effects of aromatase inhibitors, which help manage estrogen levels. Aromatase inhibitors are currently being used to treat breast cancer.

This is believed to be the first clinical trial that tested the theory that red wine may reduce the risk of breast cancer. Earlier test tube studies have shown that red wine may stem the growth of cancer cells.

“There are chemicals in red grape skin and red grape seeds that are not found in white grapes that may decrease breast cancer risk,” said Dr. Glenn Braunstein, vice president for Clinical Innovation at Cedars-Sinai.

But Braunstein cautions that even moderate amounts of alcohol consumption increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Until larger studies are done, he does not recommend that non-drinkers start drinking red wine.

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Pat Anson, Editor

Pat is Editor in Chief of American News Report. He is a veteran journalist and a former correspondent and producer for HealthWeek (PBS), Nightly Business Report (PBS) and other nationally syndicated shows. Pat has won numerous journalism awards, including a Golden Mike award for investigative reporting.

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