Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dangers of Alcohol and ER Positive Breast Cancer

Enjoying my glass of wine - June 2012
I was reading Debbie's blog the other day and one post really caught my attention. She wrote about her recent "A Ha Moment" regarding her diet and how she had let it slip into her "pre-cancer casualness." I could definitely relate.

When I was first diagnosed, I went out and bought a Breville Juicer just like Kris Carr and read her books "Crazy Sexy Diet" and "Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor." I learned how important it is to create an alkaline environment in your body. Cancer doesn't like alkalinity. Cancer LOVES acidic environments. And what contributes to acidity? Well, all the good stuff I love to eat and drink - of course! The list includes animal products (especially red meat), sugary foods (including white starches), caffeine and alcohol.

But alcohol is the topic that really caught my attention in Debbie's post. She enjoys her wine -- just like me. And what's the problem with a little red wine in the evening? It's good for your heart, right?

Well, if you have (or had) ER+ breast cancer like me (and like Debbie), alcohol increases the risk of recurrence by 90%! And if you have not had breast cancer, it increases your chances of one day developing breast cancer by 40%.

Those are some big numbers.

I was never what I would call a "heavy" or "regular" drinker in my 20's and 30's. I used to drink beer and only on the weekends. I never had issues with breast health. My mammograms were clear. I never had any lumps or cysts.

That all changed in my 40's. Somewhere along my journey through life, I started drinking wine and enjoying it very much. I would routinely have one or two glasses at least four nights a week. Suddenly my mammograms would come back abnormal. I developed cysts including one large fibroadenoma when I was 42. And then I developed breast cancer.

No one can say for sure what caused my breast cancer. But I am sure about one thing -- I need to give up wine if I want the best chance possible for avoiding a recurrence.

Want more information about the dangers of ER+ breast cancer and alcohol? Read Recipe for Disaster: Alcohol and Estrogen-Positive Breast Cancer by Dr. Kathleen Ruddy, a breast cancer surgeon and leading advocate for eradicating breast cancer.

Comments on Comments:

Mandi - Lately I have been focusing on "getting my life back" and that includes eating and drinking the same way I did before my cancer diagnosis. I agree with you - life is short and we should definitely enjoy it. But I just won't enjoy my wine the way I used to before breast cancer and before reading Dr. Ruddy's article. A 90% chance of recurrence? No glass of wine is worth it (JMHO).

Catherine - I was planning to blog about this very eye-opening article when I read it on Debbie's blog a few days ago. You bring up a really good point about how many women did not follow through with taking their hormone therapy (tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitor) for five years. After all we have been through, what's one little pill once a day? I am not having any major side effects from tamoxifen so it makes it a lot easier for me to take it every day. I suppose if I was having bone and joint pain, I might not feel the same way.


  1. Jen, I too am thankful to have been spared the bone and joint pain that can sometimes accompany the taking of Tamoxifen. I am 43 and pre-menopausal, so have suffered initially with hot flushes and an irregular cycle - even those side effects are minor compared with the treatment and emotional turmoil that cancer brings. Thanks for publicising this information which I believe is important to share. Catherine

  2. Oh Catherine; we are so similar. I'm glad you found my Blog post about the alcohol/wine too. Other than a sip the other night, I think it has been a month. And I feel great and still do things where wine is. I just am saving it for very special moments. But what really caught my eye is your mention of a Breville Juicer. ME TOO! I actually tried to sell it to some friends who wanted to get into juicing because I wasn't using it, but it came back home because they were more into smoothies. So it sits in a bag, and my kale seems to get yellow before I use it. Have you tried kale chips yet. I've heard they are delicious.

    BTW, I was first prescribed Letrozole (generic Femara), which gave me horrible bone pain. Switched to Exemestrane and after a couple of months, the bone pain is almost nonexistent. :-)

    Anyway, thanks for following me too. I hope you are doing well!

  3. Wow! It soundss like we are on a similar path here. The challenge to cut the wine in our diets, lose some weight, the five year pills, and stay positive. It is such a challenge at times. Lucky for me to have my first two grandchildren enter my life at the end of the year of my cancer treatment. That definitely has given me a wonderful distraction, especially since I get to spend a day a week with each of them. Then there is the cutting of wine from my diet, which has actually helped me to lose weight. I do to eat better, eat more greens, less bread, but really -- the wine is the one major change I am good at most of the time. :-) although this past week I was not so good. Those "really special occasions" seem to be more frequent, or I have rcategorized occasions not really so special to be really special. It is a hard one for sure. OK... This week I will get back on track. And I wish you better success too.

    Your blog is great. Thanks for following along with me too. We will fight this thing -- TOGETHER!

    I go in for my first annual blood work, bone density scan, and oncology visit next month. Will be so happy to have that behind me.

    Best to you, Jennifer!!!!


  4. this was so very eye opening - thank you for this info - since starting tamoxifen several weeks ago, I have been indulgent with the wine... in my head, I thought, this has to be toxic but was enjoying way too much to acknowledge my little voice. it stops today... thank you...

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