Your Boobs on Booze: How Alcohol Affects Your Breast Health

Darlings, first the good news. You have a choice about how estrogen works for or against you in your body. The bad news is that the latest, best evidence shows that 3 or more servings of alcohol per week may increase your risk of breast cancer quite seriously. Three. Per week. Most women I know drink this in 1 to 2 nights. Read on from my friend and colleague, Dr. Waldman, about how booze affects your boobs.

By  Dr. Helayne Waldman, Ed.D, CNE, Author of The Whole Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors

It’s true.  Though your heart may beat more melodically thanks to a daily glass of red wine, your breasts will likely sing a different tune after a glass of brewsky.

Let’s face it:  boobs and alcohol don’t mix.  In fact, for some time now, the use of alcohol has been statistically linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.  And that risk goes up with every drink you take.  For example, those of us who imbibe two to five drinks a day have about 1 ½ times the risk of those who abstain.  And a study just out in March reports that even one drink a day raises risk slightly (4%) with risk rising in relationship to quantity and frequency.

The explanation for this may differ, depending on whom you ask.  We know for sure that alcohol increases circulating estrogen levels.  And, we know for sure that it’s taxing for your liver to process the stuff.  That’s because alcohol is broken down into a compound called acetaldehyde, a poison closely related to formaldehyde.  Given all the other toxins our bodies have to deal with on a daily basis, that just adds to our load.

If you feel you can’t live without your vino, beer or black Russian, here are some things to think about to make it a safer experience for you and your breasts:

  • Choose red wine over other alcoholic beverages as it contains healthful antioxidants known as polyphenols, which protect cells from oxidative stress and can help compensate for some of alcohol’s free radical damage.
  • Keep your liver happy by using detoxification strategies such as rebounding, massage and sauna.  Liver loving herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion root and artichoke leaf can be helpful too.
  • Do not drink and take drugs at the same time, especially avoiding acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol).  This is double trouble for your liver and in rare cases even occasional use of this dynamic duo (alcohol and acetaminophen) has actually caused acute liver failure.
  • Hydrate fully and devotedly with pure water and herbal teas to keep the bad stuff moving through and out.  8 glasses/cups a day is worth aiming for.
  • Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables (lightly steamed is best) to help metabolize your estrogen in a healthful way.

In a nutshell, think before you drink!

Check out more nutritional strategies for reducing your risk of breast cancer occurrence or recurrence in Helayne’s new book, THE WHOLE FOOD GUIDE TO BREAST CANCER RISK REDUCTION, available at  For consultation on breast health and nutritional issues, contact Helayne @


  1. Birdsong on April 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Sigh… I will have to limit myself to one glass of port and a dark chocolate-covered biscotti a week; the cruciferous veggies may be good in this situation, but hypothyroid patients such as me are supposed to reduce eating them. The path keeps on getting more tortuous; good thing we keep getting wiser as we age!

  2. Pretend Mom on April 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Drats! Boobs (aka what used to be breasts but after childbirth/nursing are more similar to used Kleenex) get the short end of the proverbial stick yet again.
    LOVE the photos Dr. Sara! 🙂

  3. Sophie on April 23, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Thank you so much for this info….both my mother and grandmother had breast cancer…..I wonder was it a gene? Or a regular drink that they both had? For me, I stopped drinking when I had kids……I can’t bear waking up with a hangover and kids together. Thank you Sara 🙂 Sophie