Tuesday 3 October 2017

Alcohol and Breast Cancer

I used to love Autumn. Falling leaves, woollies and mittens, Bonfire night and Halloween....

But then, almost exactly three years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Autumn's never been the same since.

Now the fallen leaves remind me of standing in the local park, howling like a mad woman because it was the only place I could cry where the children wouldn't see.

Halloween was the night before my operation, when I hid under my duvet, saying a private farewell to a sizeable chunk of my left boob, ignoring all the trick-or-treaters ringing on the doorbell.

Bonfire night reminds me of the party we went to where I became unable to handle small talk. Vague acquaintances would ask me " How are you?" and I'd reply "I have breast cancer." Believe me, it's a conversation stopper.

It's really, really easy to think that's never going to happen to me. That's exactly what I thought. Until it did. 

The truth is, breast cancer is terribly common. But there's one thing you can do that will significantly reduce your chances of it happening to you, and that's QUITTING DRINKING.

Dr Ellie Cannon recently published a supplement in the Mail on Sunday on how to cut your risk of breast cancer.

She says that around 3,200 cases of breast cancer each year in the UK are linked to alcohol. Just drinking three alcoholic drinks a week (ha ha!) increases your risk by 15%.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, after reviewing all the evidence of the link between booze and breast cancer, said last year that whenever she's about to have a drink she thinks "do I want the glass of wine or do I want to raise my own risk of breast cancer?" This comment was treated with outrage by the media. It's a message that no-one wants to hear.

Alcohol can damage the DNA in your cells, and it also leads to increased levels of oestrogen. In over two-thirds of breast cancers (including mine), oestrogen acts like rocket fuel.

Interestingly, Dr Cannon goes on to talk about other risk factors, including lack of sleep.

Numerous studies have shown that long term disrupted sleep patterns may be linked to breast-cancer development, and women who are sleep deprived are more likely to have highly aggressive cancers. (This is also down to that pesky hormone, oestrogen, whose levels rise in poor sleepers).

Now, when I was drinking I had terrible insomnia. I'd get to sleep, no problem, but then wake up again at 3am, tossing and turning and hating myself. Now, I sleep like a baby.

Guess what another crucial factor in breast cancer development is? THE MUFFIN TOP! Also known as 'the wine belly.' Oh boy, did I have one of those... Then I quit drinking, and now I can look down and see my feet! I've lost twenty-eight pounds and the belly.

Research suggests that 5% of breast cancers could be avoided by maintaining a healthy body weight. And weight around the middle is especially dangerous.

A recent study showed that women who go up a skirt size every decade between the age of 25 and the menopause have a 33% increased risk of breast cancer in later life.

So, if you quit drinking you reduce not just one but THREE of the major risk factors for breast cancer.

Yet another good reason to put down the vino.

If you need some inspiration, information or just something to take your mind off the wine witch, then check out the SoberMummy Facebook page here. I post every week day at wine o'clock, and if you click 'like' on the page, Facebook will keep you updated.

To find out more about my first year sober, and how I kicked cancer's arse, read The Sober Diaries, click here (UK) and here (USA)

Please, please share this post. It's important.

Love to you all,

SM x



  1. Quitting drinking has so many benefits, you are right. I used to thing that weight gain was inevitable in my 40s as my metabolism slowed down. Now I realise my muffin top was the result of my wine consumption going up. These days wine has gone along with the middle age spread. I love your new Facebook page but don't have a page of my own so although I can read the posts I can't comment, or annoyingly, read anyone else comments.

    1. That's really mean of the Facebook folks! I'm sorry!

  2. I never knew this. I knew about the smoking link but the drinking link isn't very well publicised at all.

  3. I've had the precursors to breast cancer, but have now swung the odds back in my favor. I have three sisters, and I'm the only one who has had lumpectomies and constant mammograms and ultrasounds. Coincidentally, I'm the only one who drank excessive amounts of alcohol.
    Thanks so much for posting this. And you are so right about Bridget Jones!

    1. So pleased you're being properly monitored. Then, even if the worst does happen, you'll get through it! hugs xxx

  4. It was 9 years ago for me, SM, and it took me several more years to wake up from the drinking haze. Fortunately the lumps were pre-cancerous, but the scars are a reminder. Wake up, smell the coffee and the roses and bask in the many gifts our beautiful planet offers, for free. Love to everyone xxx

  5. It is so shocking the number of things drinking is linked to and yet the general population chooses to turn a blind eye. Thanks for the informative post. You truly are a pioneer in the recovery field and we are all the lucky ones at the forefront with you!

  6. Thank you for this very important blog. Even the American Cancer Society fails to inform about the cancer-alcohol connection while frequently publicizing other cancer risks with diet, exercise, smoking, etc. I suspect that the alcohol industry is a contributor. They are so powerful...but it's factual blogs like this that will change things!

  7. The million women study estimates about 1% increase in risk of breast cancer for each additional drink over the average ( which I think is 1 drink per day ) -

    "For every additional drink regularly consumed per day, the increase in incidence up to age 75 years per 1000 for women in developed countries is estimated to be about 11 for breast cancer, 1 for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, 1 for cancer of the rectum, and 0.7 each for cancers of the esophagus, larynx and liver, giving a total excess of about 15 cancers per 1000 women up to age 75."

    The report is online here http://www.millionwomenstudy.org/publications/324/moderate-alcohol-intake-and-cancer-incidence-in-women

    Sobering reading - literally!

  8. I too was diagnosed with BC in October. Breast Cancer Awareness month. I was aware alright!!! I often wonder if my bc is related to my drinking. I was very thin at the time of diagnosis...so my muffin top is a combo of menopause (due to chemo) and drinking! I did not lose any weight when I quit drinking. But, being in pre/post menopausal when you quit makes a difference! And SM...fall is one of my favorite seasons...and I love it again. I now think of fall as the time of year that saved my life. I tried to turn it around...granted, I've been NED for many years now. Here is hoping that you too can love fall again! I like it even better now!!!! xo

    1. Thanks so much for this, Soberat53. You really cheered me up. Looking forward to falling back in love with fall xxx

  9. Yes breast cancer is very common in female, So diagnosis at the proper time is better, otherwise it can be a cause of death. So get the best place for Breast cancer test and save your life.


  10. wihh nice info, saya pengunjung setia web anda
    kunjung balik, di web kami banyak penawaran dan tips tentang kesehatan
    Ada artikel menarik tentang obat tradisional yang mampu menyembuhkan penyakit berat, cek yuk
    Obat tradisional Stroke

  11. Very important to publicise this link, SM. And I’m very glad you are through it and doing well. I was diagnosed in Dec last year and have had a very gruelling 7 months of treatment but also on the road to recovery now. I was 2.5 years sober when diagnosed. Did my previous heavy drinking contribute to my diagnosis? I think, probably. But I’ll never know and it’s still the best thing I ever did for my overall health. It had helped me maintain a healthy weight for the first time in decades, as you mention. I was certainly able to face my cancer battle so much better sober. And my sobriety journey equipped me very well for how to deal with some of the stuff I’ve faced this year - like taking things a day at a time. I read your book as soon as it came out, right after my first chemo. Thank you, Clare xx

  12. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June last year. And immediately thought that my one to two bottles of wine a day and subsequent 80 pounds overweight probably had something to do with it. Muffintop? That's an understatement. Try looking nine months pregnant (literally) and have people ask you when the baby is due. I have finally now, more than a year later, the energy to quit drinking for good and live a healthy life. And hope it's not too late. Thanks for this blog and your book SM.