Excessive alcohol consumption in young women may increase the risk of benign breast disease at an early age, according to a Harvard Medical School study.
The study found that young women—typically in their high school and college years—who drink in great quantities are 50 percent more likely to develop benign breast disease before the age of 30. BBD is a common condition featuring noncancerous changes in breast tissue.
In 1996, questionnaires were sent to over 9,000 girls around the country between the ages of nine and 15. Follow-up questionnaires—which included alcohol as one of the many survey topics—were sent to women over the course of many years.
In the 2005 and 2007 questionnaires, the women were asked whether they had been diagnosed with BBD, according to Catherine S. Berkey, co-author of the study.
The data revealed that the women who consumed seven drinks a week were 50 percent more likely to develop BBD before the age of 30. Women who consumed alcohol more than three days a week were also at a greater risk for BBD.
The study—which was published online in the journal “Pediatrics”—defined a drink as a beer, a glass of wine, a mixed drink, or a shot.
Berkey said that the recent findings and other studies conducted at Harvard suggest a correlation between alcohol consumption in women and increased risks of breast cancer—and the study suggests that “the risk may extend down to younger ages.”
But the possibility of the increased risk cannot be measured exactly through the recent study, and follow-up would be necessary to obtain further information, according to Berkey, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School and a research associate at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“We will continue follow-ups of these females as more of them are diagnosed with BBD,” Berkey said. “We will investigate other factors that may affect their risk.”
Several female undergraduates said that the study would not have an overwhelming effect in changing the behavior and drinking habits of college-aged women.
Adeola Salau ’13 said that people often do not stop to consider all the consequences of their actions.
“I think that people tend to live in the moment and don’t evaluate all the potential consequences especially if the initial effects are so satisfying,” Salau said.