Alcohol has been linked to many diseases including liver cirrhosis and cancer. A new study may support this claim as researchers have found out that alcohol enhances the expression of a cancer-causing gene that increases breast cancer risk.

In 2016 alone, more than 240,000 and 61,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and non-invasive breast cancer respectively. One in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

Alcohol consumption, even in moderation, is linked to increased cancer risk. Researchers at the University of Houston in Texas have discovered a valuable link between alcohol intake and breast cancer. They identified a cancer-causing gene, called BRAF, which is activated by alcohol consumption.

The study authors wanted to explore the effects of alcohol on estrogen signaling, which is involved in breast cancer patients' clinical outcomes. They also probed the effect of alcohol to the cancer drug, Tamoxifen. This is a drug that is used to block the effects of estrogen and treat breast cancer that has metastasized.

Even if estrogen is not present, BRAF underwent inappropriate expression. This mimics the effects of estrogen on increased breast cancer risk and the intake of alcohol could affect series of mechanisms and pathways related to cancer.

"These findings not only highlight the mechanistic basis of the effects of alcohol on breast cancer cells and increased risks for disease incidents and recurrence, but may facilitate the discovery and characterization of novel oncogenic pathways and markers in breast cancer research and therapeutics," the researchers concluded.

Aside from the study providing knowledge for preventing breast cancer, it may also help women who are currently going through hormone replacement therapy. Alcohol may affect the actions of the hormones women take to reduce menopausal symptoms, which may also increase breast cancer risk.

"We hope these and future findings will provide information and motivation to promote healthy behavioral choices, as well as potential targets for chemoprevention strategies to ultimately decrease breast cancer incidents and deaths within the next decade," Chin-Yo Lin, a UH cancer biologist, said.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.

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