Sipping a glass of wine after a long day can be a way to relax and wind down. However, this may not be the only benefit to drinking wine. A new study suggests that women with breast cancer have a higher chance of surviving if they drink a daily glass of wine.
The University of Cambridge conducted a study of over 13,500 women with breast cancer. The study ran for seven years and was the largest of its kind. After keeping track of how much wine each woman drank per week, researchers found that there are advantages to having a glass a day. Women who drank three and a half small glasses of wine a week were found to be 10% more likely to survive. When the amount of wine was doubled to 7 glasses a week, women were 20% more likely to survive.
The results of this study may be confusing for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Alcohol is one of the culprits suspected to cause cancer in the first place – how can it help survival rates as well? There is no clear answer, but it may be possible that the elements of wine that harm healthy cells can also work against cancerous cells.
Many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer abstain from alcohol because they worry that it will affect their treatment. Dr. Paul Pharoah, a member of Cambridge’s Department of Oncology, explained that “what our study says is that it is reasonable, if you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, to enjoy the occasional drink of alcohol.”
Red Wine Benefits
While wine certainly should not be looked at as a cure for breast cancer, moderate consumption does seem to have some positive effects. Breast cancer is not the only health problem that wine can aid. There seems to be no end to the headlines promoting the different benefits of a daily glass. Here are a couple of them:
- Red Wine Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease: Much has been made in the past few years about the connection between red wine and heart disease. Red wine contains a polyphenol called resveritrol that is credited with much of the drink’s health benefits. Studies are ongoing, but it seems that this substance does triple duty by reducing damage to blood vessels, thinning the blood and preventing blood clots.
- Wine Raises Good Cholesterol: As if reducing heart disease were not enough, moderate wine consumption can improve your cholesterol levels. The alcohol component of wine and other spirits can raise good cholesterol if consumed in tandem with a healthy diet.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Wine can have a positive effect on your health, but it is important to remember that there can be too much of a good thing. Doctors caution against drinking excessive quantities of alcohol. The term ‘moderate amount’ gets thrown around in relation to alcohol, but exactly how much is ‘moderate’? The 2005 dietary guidelines say that a woman should stick to one unit per day while men should stick to two. A unit of wine is 5 ounces.
Alcohol and Cancer
Although a glass of wine does have its benefits in breast cancer survival, there are also downsides. Alcohol consumption has been linked to several different kinds of cancer, including throat, liver, and (ironically) breast cancer.
The link between cancer and alcohol is still a little blurry, but it is understood to cause harm in a few ways. First, alcohol can cause damage to the body’s tissues. Next, it can act as a solvent that makes it easier for other toxins to cause harm in the body. It can also lower the body’s ability to absorb folate, which can be a factor in some kinds of cancer. Finally, alcohol can lead to weight gain, which can raise the risk of cancer.
Is it Okay to Drink?
As with all things, drinking wine or other spirits is okay to do in moderation. As research like the Cambridge breast cancer study shows, wine can have a positive effect on your health. It is not a cure-all, and certainly should not be relied on in place of regular checkups and early detection, but if your doctor says it’s okay there is no reason not to enjoy a glass now and then.