Why drinking alcohol is linked to breast cancer
Posted by Xeno on August 23, 2012
A research team presented findings that they say may finally explain the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. …
Alcohol consumption has long been established as a risk factor for breast cancer. But finding the direct link that makes it so has so far proved elusive. Now, Rodríguez-Fragoso and her collaborators think that they have found the answer, a protein called CYP2E1.
“We knew that CYP2E1 could break down ethanol and that doing so created unstable, highly reactive chemicals known as free radicals,” she says. Working with researcher Scott Burchiel and his group at the University of New Mexico, Rodríguez-Fragoso’s team had previously found that free radicals were associated with activation of cellular mechanisms that lead to tumor development. “The question then was, does having more CYP2E1 make you more susceptible to ethanol-induced toxicity, thereby increasing your risk of developing cancer?”
CYP2E1 is found in breast cells known as mammary epithelial cells, which are also where most breast cancers originate, suggesting to the researchers that CYP2E1 may be involved in breast cancer development. To test this hypothesis, the researchers administered ethanol to separate cultures of mammary epithelial cells that had varying levels of CYP2E1. Cells that expressed low levels of CYP2E1 were mostly immune to the effects of the ethanol treatment; however, cells with increased amounts of CYP2E1 protein were greatly affected, suggesting that women with higher expression levels of the protein would show similar responses.
Significantly, points out Rodríguez-Fragoso, “our results showed that ethanol-treated human mammary cells had an increase in free radical production, oxidative stress and the activation of cellular mechanisms that cause cells to increase their proliferation rate,” all hallmarks of cancer. “So if you are a woman who naturally expresses higher levels of CYP2E1 and you consume alcohol, you would be at a greater risk for developing breast cancer than a woman who expresses lower amounts of CYP2E1,” she explains.
Women who express lower levels of CYP2E1 may be able to drink without getting cancer. This could explain why a glass of wine a day for one person could be fine and the same thing for another could be deadly. Bras may also cause cancer by restricting the natural flow of lymph. So, if these things are linked and the maps are correct, it seems that Russian women increase their risk by drinking, but lower their risk by more than the increase by going braless.
Here is a breast size map of the world, from which you might make some guesses about bra use around the world. In India you have B cups, little alcohol, and low breast cancer rates.
Another factor may be vitmain D. You might think, therefore, that time in the sun would be a factor but so far study results have not supported the idea of increased sun leading to less cancer. There was a finding that low vitamin D levels are linked to aggressive breast cancer. Many times people want simple answers, such as breast cancer is caused by a virus. But the truth seems to be that there are multiple causes. You can’t say that pressing your foot on the gas pedal is what causes a car to go. You also can’t say that fuel, oil, tires, an ignition system, a running engine, gears, or any other one thing causes a car to go. When conditions are just right, you get cancer, but that also means there are many different ways to stop cancer from running.