For several years now, scientists have warned that there is a link between alcohol and breast cancer. What's less clear, however, is whether the type of alcohol matters. Now researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of Southern California say substances in red wine may set it apart. They found that drinking red wine in moderation appears to counter the risks associated with alcohol. Dr. Glenn Braunstein, one of the study's authors, tells Wine Spectator that women who drink white wine may want to consider switching to red.
Alcohol consumption has been consistently linked to a heightened risk of breast cancer in women. Scientists believe alcohol inhibits breast cancer tumor suppression in women with certain genes. Breast cancer can occur when the conversion of the hormone androgen into estrogen goes unchecked in the body. Substances called aromatase inhibitors are believed to ameliorate this process.
Aromatase inhibitors occur naturally in grape skins. Cedars-Sinai researchers wanted to test if aromatase inhibitors have an impact with red wine consumption, but not white, since red wine absorbs many compounds during maceration on the skins. "It was a hypothesis that wasn’t proven by the study," said Dr. Braunstein, "but [the evidence] is supportive of red wine having a positive effect on the hormonal milieu, making it less conducive to stimulating growth of breast cancer cells." The results of the study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Women's Health.
Braunstein and his team provided 8 ounces of red wine daily to 36 women and 8 ounces of white to another 36. After one month, the scientists reversed the servings. Blood was collected twice during the women's menstrual cycle to measure hormone levels.
When women were drinking red wine, the study reports, hormone levels were at much more favorable levels. "These data suggest that red wine is an aromatase inhibitor and may explain the observation that red wine does not appear to increase breast cancer risk," the study concludes. Braunstein added that the results don't mean white wine consumption increases the risk of breast cancer, but rather it may lack the same protective ingredients found in red.