serious buzzkill: “light” drinking increases risk of breast cancer

I enjoy a glass of wine on a weekday evening. Like many mothers of young children that I know. Not every single night or anything, but an evening of all-new back-to-back episodes of Sister Wives, for example, is a perfectly acceptable reason to kick back and sip some relaxation once the kids are down.

For a while, I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that those last six pounds I never lost since Maggie was born (four YEARS ago) might just melt away if I gave up the vino. My friend Stacy, who had much success with the 17 Day Diet, said wine is the first thing that’s got to go: it’s all sugar.

But I was always able to tell myself that hey, I was being heart-healthy. Plus, a glass of red wine a day is said to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, which is something that runs in my family. Really, I was doing the only responsible thing, keeping my particular genetic propensities for disease at bay with a little Montepulciano.

That is, until last night, when the CBS evening news led off with reports of a new study linking “even light drinking”  to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Even better, Connor was standing there watching the story, in total panic, while I scrambled for the remote. Damn. I really do try hard not to have the news on TV when my kids are around. This is why.

“Mom! YOU DRINK WINE!” he said, aghast. “Are you going to get breast cancer?”

“No, honey,” I said. “They’re…well, they’re trying to scare people. Plus, I don’t drink that much.”

“They said even if you drink a LITTLE BIT,” he said, not at all dissuaded.

“Okay, then… I won’t drink wine anymore,” I said. (Where you can see me.)

“What if you go to restaurants?” he said, pressing the issue like a regular Nancy Grace. “WHAT THEN? Will you have wine THEN?”


“No, sweetie,” I said. “I won’t.” I then tried to change the subject by telling him of all the breast-cancer-risk-lowering behaviors I practice, like no aspartame, and exercise, and breastfeeding three kids.

Then I tried to explain that even a 15% increase in risk (as claimed by this study), for someone at low risk for breast cancer, is not a very large increase. But he hasn’t done percentages at school yet. So he wasn’t reassured so easily.

And of course, neither am I. Here’s hoping some other study comes out in a couple of weeks to debunk the fearmongering of this one. Until then, I’ll struggle with my conscience every time I have a sip of wine, even at a restaurant. Sigh.

Here’s an easier resolution for me to keep: no TV news when the kids are around. Maybe not for me either. A media diet might just be the miracle diet I’ve been looking for– I could lose six whole pounds of guilt.

Did you hear about this study? Will you change your drinking habits (if you drink) because of it?

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica M November 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I was reading this thinking “Yay, I’m doing something right – I don’t like wine!”  Then I got to the part about the aspartame.  I drink a can of diet soda almost every day.  (Although, does Fresca use aspartame or splenda?)  Can’t win them all…


Anonymous November 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I have Coke Zero sometimes too. When I’m trying to be virtuous and not drink wine. I’m doomed.


Lexie Bexson November 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm

This article explains an interesting correlation between breast cancer and anti-perspirants. Wine, or some form of it, has been around for hundreds of years and breast cancer is only spreading around the world now. So, i’m inclined to think the wine is fine – and other environmental and lifestyle influences are at play.


Anonymous November 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I’m with you Lexie. The anti-perspirant link seems to make a lot more intuitive sense.


Mary Pat November 2, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Ugh, these studies make my head spin! So a glass of red wine is good for your heart, but now you run the risk of getting breast cancer if you drink it? So if I don’t drink it, then I run the risk of having a heart attack?? I am definitely not giving up my glass of wine on Friday nights- no way! 🙂


Anonymous November 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I love the Friday night glass of wine.  Maybe I’ll adopt that method, that would be totally monk-like in my world


Sheila Baum November 3, 2011 at 12:29 am

My mom had breast cancer, so after hearing that news last night I feel like I could use a good drink. LOL! Honestly, I’m like you. One a week if that. Everything in moderation. Or as my mom once told me, “when it’s your time, it’s your time. Enjoy your life. Don’t worry about all the what ifs.”. Mom is still going strong 17 years later


Sharilbrooks November 3, 2011 at 11:03 am

honestly, every other day there’s a new “study” out.  Before we know it, we’ll only be able to eat tree bark and drink water for fear that everything is is disease-causing.  I say go for your media diet and put the kabosh on the tv news watching for a bit.  Drink that glass of red wine and perhaps that buzz that might actually be more beneficial to you than you think (yes, I’m thinking sex life catalyst here).  Sheesh, my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and guess what, she smoked every day of her life from 16 years old till the day she died.  Why didn’t she get lung cancer like studies show. In fact, smoking was the one vice that might’ve saved her life and sanity in the end.   DRINK UP!


Anonymous November 8, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Here’s a statistic I DO find alarming: out of 9 commenters on this thread, 2 of them have mothers who had breast cancer. It’s definitely something to worry about… I’m just not sure how much to change my life around that fear.


Katy @ Experienced Bad Mom November 3, 2011 at 4:14 pm

I’m trying to type this while my 4-y-old covers 1 eye. BLah! But I did get to see GMA this morning or yesterday when Robin Roberts so aptly pointed out that 1 in 3 women will die from heart disease (and drinking red wine supposedly helps there) while 1 in 36 (I *think*) will die from breast cancer. She asked the commentator, what do we do then? All he could say is if you haven’t started drinking, don’t. Well, good, I guess the Amish are safe!


Anonymous November 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I love it. Thanks Robin Roberts for putting it in perspective.


Courtney November 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I saw this and was very sad that there is something else “they” are terrifying us about. I just don’t get how these things change ALL the time, but no real tangible evidence is ever put forth.

All I know is, I am 37 weeks pregnant, and I miss my wine like crazy. I, like, you, enjoy a glass of wine at night, and I feel NO shame in doing so. I work over 40 hours per week,  am expecting my second child, am a damn good wife and mother, and one of the few pleasures of my life that is still “mine” is drinking wine with my husband and my friends and enjoying some adult conversation. I will NOT change my drinking habits. I guess I just think differently than some who are scared of these types of reports – I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and if I had stopped drinking my wine, I would be REALLY pissed off.


Anonymous November 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Courtney, I think at 37 weeks, you CAN have a glass of wine. My OB was old-school and very blasé about that. My friend called her glass of red with dinner a “European pregnancy.” Still, I admire your willpower!


Sameen Butt November 5, 2011 at 5:42 am

Can we drink anything besides water these days?


Anonymous November 8, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Water’s fluoridated. That’ll kill ya.


Thetiredmother November 6, 2011 at 3:51 am

My feeling is, Jackie Gleason was overweight, smoked a cigar, and drank hard liquor on a daily basis, and died at a ripe old age.  Lance Armstrong almost died of testicular cancer.  There is no rhyme or reason for it, and since I’ve pretty much given up drinking because I was either pregnant or nursing for the last 8 years, I’m probably good to go for a while.  Besides, do you think that study is going to stop the French or the Italians drinking?  Probably not, and they really know how to live, so I guess I’ll take my cues from them.


Anonymous November 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I’m impressed, thetiredmother, that you gave up drinking entirely even while nursing. Can’t say that myself. Sounds like you’ve got years of clean living stored up.


Jnwfam November 9, 2011 at 12:50 am

Browsing through Family Circle’s November issue, I came across an article about Alzheimer’s disease. Among the suggestions for prevention is having a daily glass of red wine.  It’s been shown to boost brain health.  It’s good for the heart and the brain!


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