Breast Cancer And Substance Use

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By Melissa Kluska

womanarmupThere has been much debate for some time regarding the correlation between substance use and breast cancer, especially in regards to alcohol. While many leading doctors claim that high levels of alcohol intake can increase breast cancer risks, other studies have concluded that moderate drinking can actually lessen the risk of developing some forms of cancer.

In the article, “Moderate Drinking OK for Breast Cancer Survivors?” reporter Kathleen Doheny adds a quote from Polly Newcomb, head of the cancer prevention program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Newcomb claims, “When researchers looked only at moderate drinking before a breast cancer diagnosis, it was linked with a 15 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer compared to nondrinkers.”

Moderate drinking can easily be fit into a normal healthy person’s routine, but understanding what moderate drinking is, is imperative. Moderate consumption for women is one to two 8 oz drinks per day and three to four for men. It’s important to note that thousands of individuals every day moderately drink and never develop an alcohol abuse problem or “addiction.” It is possible to alcohol incorporate moderate drinking after breast cancer survival, as many patients question if they can return to light drinking within a year or so after recovery.

Why the link between breast cancer and illegal drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, heroin has not be studied as much as alcohol, there have been several connections to breast cancer and prescription pills, especially ones to help improve heart disease conditions and some forms of birth control. While these correlations are great to find as preventive measures, they can be of some concern to women who have been on prescription pills for years up years. If a woman has developed high blood pressure she may wonder if taking the medication is worth it, even though the risk of developing breast cancer could be increased. This makes many women feel as if they need to make the decision to treat one illness over another.

….breast cancer risk more than doubled in postmenopausal women taking calcium channel blocker anti-hypertensive drugs for 10 years or more….

Cynthia Fox, Science Editor, in the article, “Popular Heart Drug May Boost Breast Cancer Risk” notes, “breast cancer risk more than doubled in postmenopausal women taking calcium channel blocker anti-hypertensive drugs for 10 years or more, according to a new study. This is big news for both women and the prescription drug industry. Anti-hypertensives, which control high blood pressure, are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States.”

Thousands of women overcome breast cancer each year. While the effects of substance use on breast cancer are still somewhat inconclusive, it’s important for women to make the choice to take any preventive measure they can. Mammogram testing as early as age 35 is a great way for a woman to be proactive about her health as well as the choices she makes regarding exercise and diet.

If you’re struggling with an alcohol and need help it’s important to know that alcohol use can be stopped, changed and overcome at any age. If you have tried treatment or rehab before without success, you may want to consider a non 12 step program or one with alternative views. Making the decision to get help is another great way to be proactive about your health.

– The following is a guest post by Melissa, Public Relations Coordinator for St. Jude Retreats – a non 12 step alternative to conventional alcohol and drug rehab.