Drinking alcohol can put you at increased risk of breast cancer by enhancing the levels of a cancer-causing gene, new research has found.
"Our research shows alcohol enhances the actions of estrogen in driving the growth of breast cancer cells and diminishes the effects of the cancer drug Tamoxifen on blocking estrogen by increasing the levels of a cancer-causing gene called BRAF," said one of the researchers Chin-Yo Lin, assistant professor at University of Houston in the US.
The findings appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.
The study objective was to determine how alcohol can affect the actions of estrogen in breast cancer cells.
They found that alcohol inappropriately promotes sustained expression of BRAF, even in the absence of estrogen, thereby mimicking or enhancing the effects of estrogen in increasing the risk of breast cancer.
Higher level of the female sex hormone estrogen is associated with greater breast cancer risk.
Another key finding was that alcohol weakened Tamoxifen’s ability to suppress the rapid growth of cancer cells.
The findings suggest that exposure to alcohol may affect a number of cancer-related pathways and mechanisms.
"We hope these and future findings will provide information and motivation to promote healthy behavioural choices, as well as potential targets for chemoprevention strategies to ultimately decrease breast cancer incidents and deaths within the next decade," Lin said.