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Fri, Apr
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Teen drinking linked to breast cancer, seminar told


Irish women who drink during their teen and early-adult years could be at greater risk of breast disease in later life, a recent Castlebar seminar on alcohol and women was told.
Dr Marie Laffoy, Assistant National Director at the National Cancer Control Programme, warned that many young Irish women are drinking precariously and could be opening themselves to cancer risks.
The seminar at which Dr Laffoy spoke, entitled Start the Conversation, was held as part of the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week. It was attended by over 140 people from across the county.
According to Dr Laffoy, alcohol increases breast cancer risk by 7 percent among women who drink just one standard drink a day. Over 10 percent, or more than 300, of all new cases of breast cancers in Ireland in a year are attributable to alcohol.
“These are serious findings, given the pattern of drinking among young people in Ireland,” Dr Laffoy said.
“We have a complex relationship with alcohol. It’s embedded into almost everything we do. We still drink harmful amounts of alcohol despite the notion that responsible drinking has become a 21st century mantra. It is this culture that influences our young people … and emerging evidence is showing that it is putting our young women at greater risk of breast disease.”
She explained that alcohol contains at least 15 carcinogens. Oestrogen is also increased by drinking alcohol, and elevated levels of the hormone is a key mechanism in hormone sensitive tumours, such as those common in breast cancer.
The statistics on women and alcohol in Ireland are sobering. Since 1995, Irish teenage girls have been drinking as much and sometimes more than their male counterparts. A higher proportion of Irish women drink compared with women in other European countries (77 percent compared to 68 percent). Four out of ten Irish women drinkers report harmful drinking patterns – which means they are drinking at a level damaging to their health. While there is no safe lower limit of alcohol consumption, keeping within Department of Health drinking guidelines would greatly reduce the risk, says Dr Laffoy. This means drinking less than eleven standard drinks a week for women, and less than 17 standard drinks per week for men. One standard drink is the equivalent of a half a pint of beer, a single pub measure of spirits or a small glass of wine.