"A drink can be risky for women's health," says Polly Newcomb, head of the Cancer Prevention Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.
"Women [who] drink about one drink per day have about a 12 percent increase in risk for breast cancer, and that increase is linear, and if you drink three drinks per day, your risk could be as much as two-and-a-half to three-fold."
That finding comes in the face of a number of studies reporting report the health benefits of drinking wine. Given the dramatic rise in wine consumption over the last decade in the United States, Newcomb wanted to find out whether specific types of wine were associated with a decrease breast cancer risk. Her team analyzed the drinking habits of 14,000 women, roughly half of whom had breast cancer.
"And when we got to wine, we asked, 'How much red wine? How much white wine?'" she says.
The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, found no difference in cancer risk between red and white wine - and no health benefit, either. Newcomb says based on the study, she recommends that if a woman drinks, she should drink in moderation and no more than one glass a day.
"If a woman does choose red wine, she should do so because she likes the flavor, but not because she thinks it might reduce her risk of breast cancer."
Newcomb adds, "This study shows that there was no evidence that it would reduce her risk of breast cancer."
While scientists are puzzled about why alcohol increases a woman's risk of breast cancer, Newcomb says some research suggests that the answer could be associated with a rise in circulating levels of estrogen.