Last week's report that drinking red wine could reduce the risk for breast cancer was just the latest in a long string of studies on the issue.
This week many middle-aged women experienced joy, and maybe even raised a glass, upon reading that red wine might stave off breast cancer. The study, published in the Journal of Women's Health, turns out to be quite small. It's a limited analysis of hormone levels in the blood of 36 premenopausal women who drank red and white wine for one month. Still, the story garnered headlines and enthusiastic posts, as if women wanted this news to be true.
For years now, we -- women who've had breast cancer and fear its recurrence, or who are simply at risk, or who are in the throes of it, still -- have been pummeled by reports about what we should and shouldn't eat or drink or do. A friend who's had breast cancer complains she can't have a glass of wine without her husband glancing over her shoulder. At family gatherings her father looks her way, sternly, if she sips from a tall stemmed glass. One woman I know attends fewer parties lately, tired of saying "no, thanks" to cocktails or champagne that otherwise flows freely.
Some find it easier to stay home, avoiding temptation entirely. This pattern of behavior can compound a breast cancer patient's sense of social isolation, depression, and feelings of inadequacy. The question at hand is whether alcohol really does cause breast cancer in some cases and, for women who've had the disease, if partaking promotes its recurrence.