American scientists have warned teenage girls that drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol will increase their risk of developing breast changes that could lead to cancer.

The Washington University School of Medicine study looked at data from nearly 30,000 women aged 18 to 22 and found that for each 10 grams of alcohol consumed (equivalent to one measure) the risk of developing proliferative benign breast disease (BDD) increased by 15 per cent.

Study lead Dr Graham Colditz said: "It's clear that this study shows that late adolescent alcohol [drinking] drives up the risk of these preliminary benign changes in the breast.

"The risk is substantial but the good news is that young women who are aware of the link can change their behaviour."

The results backed up research by the American Cancer Society which identified that women who consumer two to five alcohol drinks per day have 1.5 times the risk of breast cancer compared to non-drinkers, largely thought to be due to the hampering effect alcohol has on natural folate production.

As such, Colditz's team focused on cancer free women and found that folate intake had no effect on benign breast disease, but alcohol did.

About one-fourth of those surveyed did not drink as teens and young adults, while about 11 percent had 1.5 drinks a day or more. After an average follow-up of 10 years, the researchers found 659 cases of benign breast disease with a clear correlation between alcohol consumption and breast changes.

Breast cancer experts have expressed their concern at the findings with Susan Gapstur, vice president of the epidemiology research program for the American Cancer Society saying: "Alcohol consumption even during young adulthood does appear to play an important role in adverse breast health.

"Not everyone with proliferative benign breast disease gets breast cancer, of course. However, benign breast disease is an important, consistent risk factor [of cancer]."

Posted 12/04/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com