Wine's Link to Breast Cancer May Depend on Your Genes

A Canadian study finds wine lowers risk in women with a mutation, but raises risk for others
Jul 26, 2011

Medical research on the link between alcohol and breast cancer is yielding new insight but is also making the risks less clear. A new study has found evidence that moderate wine consumption may protect some populations of women against breast cancer. But only women with a certain genetic mutation enjoy the benefits. Women with a different mutation, on the other hand, may be put at greater risk by consuming alcohol.

The study comes from research centers at the Universities of Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto and is slated for publication in The Breast Journal. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Canadian women. The researchers' goal was to validate the 2007 World Cancer Research Fund report that found a convincing link between alcohol consumption and higher rates of breast cancer. Previous studies also suggest that mutated BRCA genes contribute to the risk.

BRCA genes normally operate as tumor suppressors. Mutations, however, may prove harmful. The mutations are hereditary, according to the National Cancer Institute, and can only be detected with genetic screening.

Study lead author Jessica Dennis, a researcher and PhD student at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, said the mutations are rare in general, though some ethnicities, such as Ashkenazi Jews, appear to be at greater risk. And not every woman who has a harmful BRCA mutation will develop breast cancer. "Any testing for the BRCA gene mutations should be done in consultation with a doctor," said Dennis. "The mechanism by which alcohol increases breast cancer risk is poorly understood. Likewise, reasons why wine may be protective are unclear."

A total of 857 breast cancer patients took part in the experiment, including 10 BRCA1 and 33 BRCA2 mutation carriers. Their lifestyle choices were recorded, including alcohol consumption. The scientists examined the age at which each woman was diagnosed with breast cancer, and began to develop theories about the pathology of the disease and how it may relate to a lifestyle that includes alcohol consumption.

They found that women with the BRCA1 mutation showed a 62 percent lower likelihood of breast cancer than the general population if they drank wine. In contrast, women with the BRCA2 mutation showed a 58 percent greater risk.

The scientists believe the impact they observed may be due to the presence of the grape polyphenol called resveratrol. "Resveratrol, produced by grape vines in response to injury and found especially in red wine, may mediate the inverse association between breast cancer and wine consumption," the study reported.

Resveratrol binds to estrogen receptors and helps regulate the activity of BRCA1 mutated genes, the researchers believe. BRCA2 is unreceptive to resveratrol, they believe. "Wine consumption may reduce the risk of BRCA1-associated breast cancer, relative to the risk of breast cancer among non-mutation carriers, perhaps through the action of resveratrol," the study concluded.

"If someone is choosing to drink, wine, and especially red wine, may be a good choice," said Dennis. "However, there may be other ingredients in wine that are causing the decrease in risk, or the results may be explained by biases and confounding." Further research is required to explore the connection.

Health Cancer Women's Health News

You Might Also Like

Your Favorite Old World Wine Is About to Get Much More Expensive

Your Favorite Old World Wine Is About to Get Much More Expensive

The U.S. is imposing 25% tariffs on many French, Spanish and German wines. What will it …

Oct 18, 2019
Spain's Alma Carraovejas Buys 2 Ribeiro Wineries: Emilio Rojo and Viña Meín

Spain's Alma Carraovejas Buys 2 Ribeiro Wineries: Emilio Rojo and Viña Meín

The Ribera del Duero based wine company hopes to untap the potential of Galicia's wines

Oct 16, 2019
Moderate Wine Consumption and Type 2 Diabetes

Moderate Wine Consumption and Type 2 Diabetes

A meta analysis of research found wine may help diabetes sufferers by lowering blood …

Oct 15, 2019
Chanel Group Expands Its Wine Ambitions to Provence

Chanel Group Expands Its Wine Ambitions to Provence

The luxury company, which owns wineries in Bordeaux and Napa, buys Domaine de I'lle in …

Oct 14, 2019
Exclusive: Jackson Family Wines Buys Balo Vineyards in Anderson Valley

Exclusive: Jackson Family Wines Buys Balo Vineyards in Anderson Valley

The 14-acre property in California's Mendocino County is known for its Pinot Noir and …

Oct 14, 2019
California Wineries Take Mid-Harvest Power Outages in Stride

California Wineries Take Mid-Harvest Power Outages in Stride

The local utility has been cutting power to prevent wildfires, leaving millions in the …

Oct 11, 2019
WineRatings+

WineRatings+

Xvalues

Xvalues

Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search