• Journal Article

Exploring the relation of alcohol consumption to risk of breast cancer


Ellison, R. C., Zhang, Y. Q., McLennan, C. E., & Rothman, K. (2001). Exploring the relation of alcohol consumption to risk of breast cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology, 154(8), 740-747.


There are lingering questions regarding the relation between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk in women. The authors performed a meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies carried out through 1999 to examine the dose-response relation and to assess whether effect estimates differed according to various study characteristics. Overall, there was a monotonic increase in the relative risk of breast cancer with alcohol consumption, but the magnitude of the effect was small; in comparison with nondrinkers, women averaging 12 g/day of alcohol consumption (approximately one typical drink) had a relative risk of 1.10 (95% confidence interval (Cl): 1.06, 1.14). Estimates of relative risk were 7% greater in hospital-based case-control studies than in cohort studies or community-based case-control studies, 3% greater in studies published before 1990 than in studies published later, and 5% greater in studies conducted outside of the United States than in US studies. The findings of five US cohort studies published since 1990 yielded a relative risk of 1.06 (95% Cl: 1.00, 1.11) for consumers of 12 g/day, as compared with nondrinkers. Cohort studies with less than 10 years of follow-up gave estimates 11% higher than cohort studies with longer follow-up periods. No meaningful difference was seen by menopausal status or type of beverage consumed