Pretoria - Renowned specialist surgeon and breast disease specialist Professor Carol-Ann Benn has warned that alcohol can, in some instances, increase the risk of breast cancer.
The specialist at Netcare Milpark Breast Care Centre of Excellence, said alcohol could increase levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
“Alcohol should also be considered as ’empty calories’, meaning it has a high calorie content without contributing significant nutritional value.
“The weight gain that may result from alcohol consumption is most commonly abdominal obesity, which is linked to a higher risk of cancer.
“Abdominal fat can also be considered ‘carcinogenic’ in the sense that it stimulates the production of hormones associated with increased cancer risks.
“We are unfortunately seeing a notable increase in younger women developing breast cancer and it is important that awareness of the benefits of self-examination and screening from a young age is reinforced.
She said there had been interesting studies which suggested women who drank alcohol may be able to counteract its damaging effects through doing “moderate to significant exercise”.
Benn said in South Africa, where healthcare resources were constrained, women - and men - should examine their breasts and know how to access healthcare facilities if they had any signs of cancer.
Ideally, screening should involve screening mammograms from the age of 40 onwards, she said.
She said almost two-thirds of women diagnosed with breast cancer had no significant risk factors, highlighting the importance of all women being vigilant, and taking care of their health.