Intended for healthcare professionals


Alcohol, diet, and risk of breast cancer

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 11 May 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2503

Chinese translation


  1. Timothy J Key, professor1,
  2. Gillian K Reeves, professor1
  1. 1Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF
  1. Correspondence to: T J Key tim.key{at}

Public health messages should focus on alcohol and obesity while we wait for clearer evidence on dietary components

Two linked papers in The BMJ shed new light on the relation of alcohol and diet with the two commonest diseases in women in western countries: breast cancer and ischaemic heart disease.1 2 After following the health of nearly 22 000 postmenopausal women in Denmark, Dam and colleagues1 report that, compared with women with a stable intake of alcohol, women who increased their alcohol intake by two drinks per day during five years of follow-up had an increase in risk of breast cancer of about 30% but a decrease in risk of ischaemic heart disease of about 20%.

The results for breast cancer are in line with previous research, and the authors argue that the association with changes in alcohol intake provides stronger evidence that the relation is causal. For ischaemic heart disease, the apparent benefit in women who reported an …

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