The Million Women Study, an Oxford University-based research effort, is making an attempt to come to a final decision on whether hormone replacement therapy is helping women through some of the more uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, or, in fact, giving them cancer. The Million Women Study is quickly becoming what many experts are calling a “blueprint for women’s health.”In an article in The Guardian , “A million women can’t be wrong,” it was announced that the study had found that even a small amount of all types of wine can lead to increases in a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer later in life .
These are shocking findings, considering that red wine has often been touted as one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
The Oxford study also looked at a variety of controversial women’s health issues, including birth control medication, hormone replacement therapy, diet, pregnancy, childbearing, as well as menopause. The study, unlike many other small-scale undertakings, involves extremely reliable information, due to the sheer size of the number of women surveyed.
The Link Between Wine and Breast Cancer
While many people look forward to winding down from the daily grind with a glass of red or white wine, the Oxford study clearly indicates that in a study of over one million women, there is a clear link between even moderate amounts of wine and breast cancer.
Researchers feel that there may be a relationship between the behavior of alcohol on hormone levels in the body, especially estrogen. And as estrogen is such a key player in the regular reproductive cycle, and increased levels of estrogen have been clearly linked to breast cancer, some studies are looking into the possibility that alcohol may increase estrogen levels in women. The same study also suggests that the intake of alcohol may affect other biological systems related to increased cancer in women.
An example of this holistic understanding is that of the liver. It has been found that alcohol inhibits the liver from functioning at optimal levels. If the liver, which is responsible for ridding the body of toxins, is unable to function properly, our body may get overloaded with the carcinogens that the liver was unable to expel. Unfortunately for all of you wine-lovers out there, alcohol may also be acting as a co-carcinogen, meaning it may aid cancerous cells in their growth patterns.
The report also looked into many variables that the scientific community has not taken into consideration in regard to women and cancer. The Million Women Study questions participants on everything from whether they use butter or olive oil in their cooking, if they regularly listen to music or paint, and even variables such as stress levels and happiness indicators.
Suggested Ways to Reduce Your Risk
Although many of the findings from The Million Women Study are still emerging, the main ways for women to reduce their risks of developing cancer and heart disease are reported from the study as follows:
- Avoid Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): The Million Women Study found that use of the normal combined form of estrogen and progesterone HRT doubled women’s risk of cancer. The good news is that the increased risk goes away once women stop taking HRT.
- Stop Smoking: Smoking increases cancer risk in women by 32 percent. The great news is that the study found that, “If you give up smoking, within five years your risk of lung cancer has halved,” says Professor Valerie Beral, director of Oxford University’s cancer epidemiology unit.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: This study found that being overweight, as well as underweight, increases risks. They recommend a body mass index (BMI) of 24.
- Stop Drinking Alcohol: Even one glass of any alcoholic beverage can increase your likelihood for breast cancer. The good news from the study states that, “Once you stop drinking, your increased cancer risk starts to melt away.”
- Exercise: It will help you to significantly decrease you risk for heart disease.
- Breast-feed: Using the breasts to feed offspring has been shown to reduce the chances of breast cancer. Having children was also shown to help protect women against breast cancer.
- Sarah Boseley. A million women can’t be wrong. The Guardian. 2009 March 15.
- Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Red Wine Vs. White? Both Equal Offenders In Breast-cancer Risk. ScienceDaily. 2009 March 10