Current public health recommendations in Australia are for a maximum of 2 standard drinks per day - the equivalent of 20g of alcohol (NHMRC guidelines). A systematic review published in Cancer Treatment Reviews1 last month by Cancer Council Victoria and University of Melbourne authors Phanthira Simapivapan, Dr Anna Boltong and Dr Allison Hodge, shows that alcohol consumption from levels as low as 6g of alcohol per day modestly increases the risk of breast cancer recurrence. The association between alcohol and development of a second primary breast cancer is less clear.
It is estimated that one third of cancers can be prevented through modifications to lifestyle, including diet and alcohol intake. Research shows that patients do not make the link between alcohol and cancer risk. This research calls into question the use of the ‘standard drink framework' for people who have already experienced cancer. In Australia, the overall five year survival rate for breast cancer in females is 89%2. Clinicians are well positioned to offer lifestyle advice to cancer patients in an effort to improve long term health outcomes.
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