Alcohol and Breast Cancer.
I like to drink. But I want to have a serious convo with everyone about alcohol and breast cancer. Because I really do feel that alcohol probably played a part in causing me to get cancer at an early age.
I used to drink every day. I wasn’t an alcoholic, but every night with dinner I had probably 2-3 glasses of wine. I did not NEED to drink, it just sort of became a bad habit. I didn’t get drunk, I did it to relax after work and unwind. And I just like wine! I still do! It’s fucking delish! My daily wine habit started when I got married in 2008. I would make dinner for me and my (now-ex) husband, and we would open a bottle of wine to pair it with whatever I made. Every. Single. Night. For about 5 years. Yikes.
I didn’t see anything really wrong with it back then. Looking back, I honestly can’t believe how I managed to drink alcohol every night and not look like Honey-Boo-Boo’s mother (google it). Also, what a waste of money! I don’t drink cheap shit ya know.
When my husband and I separated I didn’t really drink as much. I was living on my own (plus my two cats) so the idea of drinking alone every night was about as pathetic as a Backstreet Boys reunion tour (LOL just go away guys, you had your time in the sun). I also wanted to keep a clear head and focus on yoga and get a hot revenge body. I still drank, just on the weekends when I was out with my friends doing betchy things like brunch and Sunday boating. But the damage had apparently already been done. I had cancer and I didn’t even know it.
So drinking 2-3 alcoholic drinks daily (which is what I did) has about a 20% increased risk for breast cancer. There are a few reasons. First, because alcohol changes the way women’s bodies metabolize estrogen. In studies, women who drink (in that 2-3 drinks a day range) had higher levels of estrogen in their bodies. My cancer is estrogen-receptor positive. Meaning, the extra estrogen cells hopped on the cancer cells like they were a free Uber ride, and they joined together and took the Uber to the hottest club in town (my tumor). The estrogen cells increased the cancer cells. Partayyyyy! So my tumor was basically LIV on a Saturday night when Calvin Harris was deejaying. I don’t know the science behind WHY daily alcohol consumption increases estrogen, I just know that it’s been proven in women. See resource links below.
In addition, alcohol lowers women’s levels of folic acid, which helps DNA repair itself. For this one I’m going to quote from an actual breast cancer site because I dunno how to explain this shit.
“Drinking alcohol can reduce blood levels of the vitamin folic acid. Folic acid plays a role in copying and repairing DNA. Low levels of folic acid may make it more likely that DNA is incorrectly copied when cells divide. Such errors can lead cells down a pathway to become cancer. “
I believe that those 5-6 years of daily drinking probably cracked my cancer genes open. I tested positive for the ATM mutation which is a cancer gene. Just because I have a “cancer gene”, doesn’t mean I HAVE cancer. My dad also has the ATM mutation, but he doesn’t have cancer nor has he ever had cancer. What this means is that I have a mutation in my genes and when it’s flipped “on” it produces cancer cells. Nobody really knows what flipped it on. If we did, fewer people would have cancer. But my theory is that drinking, along with numerous other environmental factors (pesticides and hormones in food), low immune system, and genetics caused my cancer.
I still drink alcohol. Just not every day. I usually go out one night a week. And if I’m not going out on a Friday night, I’ll crack open a bottle of wine and fall asleep on the couch watching Bravo. It all depends on how busy my social life is (… did I just hear crickets chirping? I guess my “social life” is sorta slow lately!) I want to be careful but I still need to enjoy life. These days, I will open a bottle of wine, have a glass, and then forget about the wine and have to throw it away because it goes bad. It’s definitely a waste, but I’m okay with that! I’d rather throw away the wine. I also take Tamoxifen daily which stops nearly all estrogen production, so I like to think that I have a little bit of drinking insurance. (Is that how that works? No? I don’t know either.)
If you are a women and you drink alcohol every day, I am not singling you out and saying you are going to get cancer. You probably don’t have a genetic cancer mutation like I did, and you probably won’t get cancer like I did! But I am saying that there is a slight risk. So calm down, and don’t pour out that Pinot Noir or margarita you’re sipping on. Life is all about balance. We can’t live our lives being worried about cancer all the time. These days it seems like everything gives us cancer. Bacon, hot dogs, popcorn, non-organic produce, farmed fish, red meat, soda, food coloring. Like, whatever! What the hell am I supposed to eat? Organic, gluten-free, non-dairy, non-GMO, vegan …lettuce? And every ache and pain we have these days is a potential for cancer apparently. Just go to WebMd’s website.
Me: I have a stomach ache (from eating too many Oreos but I’ll leave that part out)
WebMd: Stomach cancer.
Me: I have a sore throat.
WebMd: Throat and/or tongue cancer.
Me: But I’m pretty sure it’s just a cold. I have a headache too.
WebMd: Brain cancer.
I am just telling you my story. And I’m also trying to reflect on my past and what happened and what I can do differently in the future so this doesn’t happen again. Some people may be thinking, “Why don’t you just quit drinking, forever?” I don’t know. Maybe I should. I certainly cut back. But do I KNOW if my former boozy wine habits caused my cancer? No. Of all the doctors I currently see, not a single one has even brought up restricting alcohol — except during chemo — but even then, they said it was fine to drink alcohol on occasion! I could have never had a single drink of alcohol in my life and STILL got breast cancer eventually. That’s what is so frustrating. We really just don’t know what causes cancer. So you know what? If I feel like having a cocktail or glass of wine, I’m going to. Just not every day. Everything comes with it’s risks. Find your own balance. Listen to your body and your intuition, have no fears, blah blah blah! You know the drill. If you do enjoy drinking every day, just be extra aware of any changes in your bodies. Feel those boobies often for lumps! Bottoms up. (or not) Xoxo