The Boob Report – The Dirty Little Secret about Alcohol

Don’t shoot! I am about to deliver a dirty little secret kept by doctors. Why? I don’t think anyone wants to know. I’ve held this post for a year while waiting to get up the nerve. My hand shook while pressing publish.

I had only heard rumblings about it and that was long ago, after Paul McCartney’s wife, Linda, died of breast cancer. I quickly forgot, until last summer.

The bar

The bomb was dropped into the conversation while enjoying lunch al fresco with a friend who had just finished radiation treatment for stage I breast cancer. “You know, we’re not supposed to drink alcohol,” she said.

The light in the outdoor courtyard shifted as the splashing water in the fountain transformed into broken glass. My heart sank along with the fork down to my plate. “I remember something about that.”

I was diagnosed with stage I lobular breast cancer in April of 2013 and had a double boobectomy the following month. It was more than a shock after living a super healthy and active lifestyle. Being a health nut, we built a “green” house in 2000, ate organic foods and used organic cleaning supplies for two decades.

After returning home, I woke up my computer and clicked to AmericanCancerSociety.org; the only site my oncologist recommends for information. I searched for “breast cancer and alcohol.” Breast cancer made the list of seven types of cancer related to alcohol use: mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum, and breast.

I quickly dismissed it as the cause of my cancer since I am a lightweight. Sometimes I would suffer with horrific stomachaches after consuming only two glasses of wine. I have never needed alcohol to embrace my wild side like when I danced on stage in New Orleans while rocking out to Michael Jackson, karaoke-style.

Michael Jackson Impersonators Unite

Then I researched a little further and bummed out. Some women can be affected by only a few glasses of alcohol per week. It raises estrogen levels. My stupid cancer munched estrogen like a starved goat in a field of clover.

I raised my glass of wine in a toast at a wedding on August 9th, 2014. After taking a sip, I knew it was my last. When I met with my oncologist six months later, I told him I had stopped drinking alcohol.

“Good for you,” he said. “That’s a very healthy choice. Giving up alcohol after being diagnosed with breast cancer to reduce the risk for reoccurrence hasn’t been tested yet.”

“Why aren’t doctors telling us about the correlation between alcohol and breast cancer?” I asked.

He looked at me with concern and said, “I thought they were.”

“Pshh! Never.”

Every year gynecologists ask how much alcohol we drink. Mine never said, “Alcohol consumption raises your estrogen level and can cause breast cancer.”

Another bar

Recently, I had a bone density test since I’m on a new anti-cancer drug, Anastrozole, which blocks all types of estrogen production. The patient form asked how much alcohol I drank. I answered zero and asked the radiologist about it. She said that 2-3 drinks per day can cause osteoporosis, but had never heard it related to breast cancer.

Here’s the thing. Alcohol is a toxin. Although our ancestors depended on it when water wasn’t safe to drink, it kills 2.5 million people worldwide every year. That’s not counting how it’s contributing to cancer deaths.

Many people are still riding the pro-alcohol health wave because it contains antioxidants. So do almost all fruits and vegetables, coffee and tea. The list is humongous.

It is true that moderate use of alcohol can prevent heart disease. I know a pathologist who said she could tell if the patient had been an alcoholic. “Their arteries are like hoses.” Everyone wants to live to celebrate his or her one-hundredth birthday, so do I.

Do I think alcohol caused my breast cancer? Not entirely, but it might have contributed to a perfect storm of factors. The “why me” question has been my biggest struggle with this disease.

The dirty secret about alcohol and breast cancerAs time passed, not drinking alcohol has become my thing. It’s been over a year and I don’t miss it at all. Maybe that will change someday, like when I celebrate my ninetieth birthday, but for now, I’m happy drinking seltzer. My husband, Danny, has a designated driver everywhere we go. Bonus for him!

After telling someone about my choice, I add that I don’t expect anyone else to make the same decision. I lived a granola lifestyle before breast cancer. Avoiding alcohol along with anything that raises estrogen production is the change in my life that keeps me from worrying about cancer recurrence. I have been cancer-free for two years. Yay!

What if you are a worrier? Think about it. Talk to your doctor. Do what’s right for you. I’m just the messenger. I’m unarmed. Don’t shoot.

Did you know about the link between alcohol and cancer? If you did when did you hear about it? 

Linkage:

Alcohol and Cancer – American Cancer Society

For more Boob Reports chronicling my two year journey, click HERE.

134 thoughts on “The Boob Report – The Dirty Little Secret about Alcohol

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  1. Well that’s interesting because every doctor I’ve ever been too has asked about alcohol consumption, but I don’t remember any of them saying that it raises estrogen levels. However, I do remember reading that fact somewhere.

    I’m so glad that you’ve remained cancer free. Not everyone is as lucky. Keep on doing what you’re doing and stay that way.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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    1. The biggest risk in posting this was that I could be the only one who hadn’t heard about the link, but everyone I asked hadn’t heard either. It has become a Public Service Announcement. Ha!
      I plan to keep on truckin’ down that healthy road, Patricia. Thanks so much!

      Like

  2. As much as I want to “shoot the messenger”, having read this will honestly force me to limit my intake. I’m not ready to say goodbye to wine altogether but, I will think twice and have less. Thanks for the info. 🙂

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    1. It’s up totally up to you! I think moderation is the key. It could be a healthy choice for some with heart disease and no history of cancer in their family and the straw that breaks the camel’s back in others. Who knows what kinds of toxic exposure we’ve had.The jury is still out with why so many get breast cancer. I wasn’t considered high risk.
      I’m so glad you didn’t shoot!!! I’m just the public service announcement wild rider.

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    1. Thanks Julie! That’s exactly why I posted. I would have loved the information and with my strange subliminal cancer paranoia, might have stopped drinking altogether. I wasn’t much of a drinker anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Christina!
      I haven’t been shot yet. Ha! I suspected that most hadn’t heard about the link and felt it was time to get it out there, October breast cancer month and all. Everyone can make better personal decisions based on the information. There’s no way to know what caused my breast cancer, but at least I don’t worry anymore!

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  3. Oh my goodness, Susie — I had no idea.

    In grew up tremendously healthy & didn’t really drink a regular glass of dinnertime wine until recent years. I enjoy it, but lately I’ve noticed that *every* time I drink, even a little, my contacts get so dry I can barely stand it, and I always look older and more tired the next morning — even with just a glass. Probably dehydration, I guess.

    I’ve been rethinking the health benefits for a few weeks now (keeping my body at its sustainable best is important to me), & this is good information.

    Congrats on two years cancer-free!! Raise a glass of something sparkling and non-alcoholic, and enjoy this beautiful life. 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by!
      I was upset when I found the information had been withheld since I was health conscious too. At least now I’ve made the choice and don’t worry anymore. That first year was killer!

      I’ll never know what caused my cancer, but I thought putting this out there would help those who have concerns make their own decisions.
      *raises glass in toast* Clink!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It sure is food for thought! But a few drinks a week is pretty moderate. Right? It’s hard to know how our bodies process everything. I’m erring on the safe side.
      Thanks for stopping by, Cluttered Man. 🙂

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  4. You are the Wild Rider My Friend and Congrats on 2 years – Amazing 🙂

    My eyes are wide open now and I learned something new! I have not heard of this correlation. I have been asked by my doctors on my alcohol consumption. Luckily for me I am more of a questioner than a worrier when it comes to being my own patient advocate on my whole being health.

    Thanks so much for sharing and it needs to be put out there and addressed and discussed!

    Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much, Renee! I plan to keep riding wild for decades to come!
      You are so right. We should discuss this. I mentioned it to my dermatologist this morning and she hadn’t heard about the connection either.
      Have a fabulous week!

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  5. I’ve heard that there is a correlation, but I don’t believe much of what doctors tell me. Their “facts” change about every time I go in for a physical. That being said, I don’t drink nearly as much as I once did because it no longer tastes good to me. So if there is truth in the alcohol/cancer connection, I’m doing my part to help myself. 😉

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    1. That’s great! I’ve never heard this from any of my doctors until my last appointment with my oncologist. There is a lot of misinformation floating around especially on the “interwebs.” 🙂

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  6. I’d never heard about a connection between alcohol and breast cancer until reading your post. My mom is a breast cancer survivor and never said anything about alcohol and her cancer. Thanks for being the messenger, Susie. Congrats on giving up alcohol and being cancer free for two years. Raising a glass of seltzer water to another 50 years or more of being cancer free. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks Lynn! They probably never mentioned it to her. Mine didn’t until I asked during my last appointment. I think there is a certain shyness about it since drinking is so social and popular.
      Yep! I happy dance every 6 months! *clink*
      Thanks so much! I’m spreading the word…

      Like

      1. In 1992 I was diagnosed with cancer while in my twenties. One of the first things my doctor told me was to go easy on the alcohol, all cancers are affected by booze negatively. I am a 23 year cancer survivor who does not drink alcohol and doesn’t miss it!!!!! Stay on your wild ride Susie and enjoy life to the fullest!!! :))) Suzy.

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    1. Thanks so much, August!
      I was surprised no one lashed out in defense. Deep down I think most recognize alcohol is something to be careful of especially after that first bad hangover. For me, it was the last and that was way back in college when turning 21. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. No, I have never heard this correlation either, and I consider myself fairly up to date with health-related research. Thank you for sharing your story and I am very motivated to take a similar stance. At minimum, to watch the level of intake over a long period of time! It’s easy to be cavalier when things are going well, but when faced with a health scare or crisis the world changes and we’d do anything. Thank you for such a caring enough to share!

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    1. I had a heart ablation in 2011 and drank wine for the heart healthy benefits thinking there was no way I’d ever get cancer with my healthy lifestyle. It was lurking somewhere….
      Thanks Debra! I’m happy to get the news out there since only one commenter heard about it from her doctor in London!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I had no idea! Good to know. I do have maybe one drink here and there. But sometimes I go long stretches with no alcohol at all. I’m getting too old to even have a glass of wine anymore. And you’re so right–it is a toxin. I learned that in my anatomy class. What the body endures in order to process one drink is astounding.

    Congrats on being cancer-free! That is awesome.

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    1. Thanks Darla! Every six months I hold my breath and pray after testing.
      I read your comment, but was on vacation with sketchy internet this weekend. I didn’t know that about processing alcohol. They should do a public service announcement like the one, “This is your brain.” (butter sizzles in frying pan.) “This is your brain on drugs.” (burns egg in pan). Only the first scene would be – “This is your body.” (organic mulch.) “This is your body processing alcohol.” (A recycling plant and all the gross trash thrown in the dump.) Ha!

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  9. Wow! Just Wow! I never ever heard this information. I rarely drink at all, mainly because I’m afraid of being the star of someone else’s YouTube video.
    Thanks for enlightening us on this crucial piece of information!

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    1. I hadn’t heard either. I’m not sure why the majority of doctors don’t tell us why they are keeping track of alcohol intake.
      Ha! I’m pretty wild without alcohol, so I know what you mean. 🙂
      Good to “see” you, Lisa! I’m back home again with internet again, yay!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I heard about the specific terms for breastfeeding cancer only last year, when I watched a documentary. Doctors always ask how much you drink but don’t give specific risks. I didn’t know the mechanism was raising estrogen levels either.
    I do like a few glasses of wine. Humans are not very good at weighing the uncertain future risks of today’s behaviour. Good food for thought.

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    1. Fixed it!
      I’m not sure why either. I think there is rarely one absolute cause for cancer, so they hold back the information. The problem is, we all know our own bodies. Some can handle alcohol better than others. We should be given the facts to make our own decisions. Right?
      Thanks for stopping by, Kiri! I’m back after a long weekend. 🙂

      Like

  11. I hate to admit it but you’re right. I cut back on my alcohol consumption tremendously back in June and what of it? Well, I’ve lost those last ten cranky pounds, my energy level is through the roof, the daily aches and pains have waned, my attention span improved, my attitude as well, and my creative juices are juicy as ever. That last part really hit home for me, because I always believed that a couple drinks helped my writing. That’s what happens when you grow up thinking Hemingway had the magic elixir.

    I might have to change the name of my blog eventually. Something like Marc Anthony’s House of Daily Angst…..not sure on that one.

    Anyways, I was looking forward to this post and you did not disappoint.

    Love and peace chica

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad to hear that you are feeling better! Woohoo! You could be doing yourself a big favor in avoiding 7 types of cancer. Yes. Men can get breast cancer too. Darla from She’s a Maineaic left a comment saying that when she studied anatomy, she learned how much your body has to go through to process one glass of alcohol. Who knew?
      There are probably many factors involved in cancer, but eliminating one could make a big difference.

      Ha! I love “Marc Anthony’s House of Daily Angst,” but you may have less to complain about over time since “cranky” may have left the building. 🙂
      Have a profoundly fabulous week, my friend!

      Like

  12. Very important and timely topic, Susie. I did NOT realize the link between alcohol and breast cancer was that significant. The thing that concerns me, though, is that my doctor DID say that moderate alcohol is perhaps the best thing to raise my good cholesterol and help prevent heart disease. It’s hard to know what to do. 😦

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    1. It is hard. I would weigh the pros and cons. There are other substitutions. Cooking with olive oil also raises LDL’s and it won’t kill you. 🙂 I use it in salad dressings and sautéing daily. I had a heart ablation for PVST and figured heart disease would kill me, but my cholesterol is in the basement. Do what’s right for you. Either way, I hope you live a very long healthy life!!!

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  13. Susie! Thanks for the info!! I had no idea they were related…liver cancer for sure, but not breast cancer. Luckily I’m not a crazed drinker, but every so often when our group gets together the glasses come on out and the wines and mixed drinks find their way. Thanks for story, I’ll be sure to let my buddies know.

    Like

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