As if you didn’t have enough to worry about during your child-bearing years, a new study came out saying that drinking before pregnancy can actually increase your risk of developing breast cancer later!
We all know how important it is to abstain from drinking during pregnancy, but who knew that those pre-pregnancy cocktails could actually cause so many problems later in life? The scary thing is, we’re not talking about hardcore drinkers here. The risk increases just by imbibing in a single alcoholic drink a day! Does this mean you need to ditch happy hour or that glass of dinner wine entirely? Let’s take a look and find out!
A look at the details behind the new study on pre-pregnancy drinking
The study was led by Dr Ying Liu from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, US. It followed 91,000 women between the ages of 15 and 40. After factoring in all other considerations, such as a history of breast cancer in families and other activities already known to cause cancer, the researches were still left with overwhelming evidence that drinking before pregnancy can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Evidence also suggests that the longer you wait to get pregnant, the more that risk goes up. Not really fair, considering some of us took a long time to get pregnant due to fertility problems! Talk about adding insult to injury! Why does pre-pregnancy drinking increase your risk of breast cancer? Well, during those years from the time of your first period till the delivery of your first baby, your breast tissue is particularly vulnerable to the triggers that cause cancer. Apparently, having a baby helps reduce that sensitivity! It kind of makes up for all those brain cells your baby eats while you’re pregnant! No, there is no evidence that unborn babies eat your brain cells, but I still swear I was a lot smarter before the birth of my son!
So what does this mean for Happy Hour?
Does this mean that you have to pretend we’re back in the times of prohibition and lead a dry life devoid of any alcohol? Not really. It just means you have to be a little more careful about it. Researchers found that the risk was at its highest when women indulged six or more times a week. It’s also important to note that the total risk increased by about 11%. While that sounds like a hefty number in medical terms, there is still an 89% chance that having a few drinks a week will cause no problems at all. Still, it’s better to err on the side of caution! Rather than canceling your monthly girl’s night out, let’s look at ways to balance out that risk.
- Cut back, not out– While pre-pregnancy drinking can increase the risk of breast cancer, there are so many studies out there that find benefits in the occasional glass of wine. Drink in moderation. One glass of wine three nights a week isn’t likely to cause a major problem.
- Be the designated driver more often. You can still go to Happy Hour with your friends and coworkers without drinking. Opt to be the designated driver and enjoy “virgin” versions of your favorite cocktails.
- Stay active- Leading an active life and getting regular exercise can decrease your risk of developing any type of cancer, including breast cancer. In fact, walking just 2 hours a week can decrease your risk by as much as 18%!
One obvious tip is to have children earlier, but this isn’t always feasible. It doesn’t really make sense to rush yourself into having children if you’re not ready just to reduce your risk of breast cancer. Researches also say that having more than one baby in your 20s can also decrease the risk.
Here’s the thing, though: it’s not so much the act of going through pregnancy and giving birth that decreases your risk. It’s the fact that having two, three, four or more babies during those years decreases the number of periods you have. The fewer menstrual cycles you go through, the lower your risk of breast cancer. Unfortunately, you can’t replicate this effect with birth control, as that actually increases your risk.
The bottom line is, while pre-pregnancy drinking can potentially increase your risk of breast cancer, so can many other things. Life is a balancing act. Every day, studies find new things that are going to kill us faster. Don’t freak out thinking that all those college parties ten (or twenty!) years ago mean a death sentence in your future. Instead, move forward and do what you need to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle now!