Let's be honest, no parents want their kid to drink. For starters, there are the obvious potential risks: deadly car accidents, alcohol poisoning, overall embarrassing public behavior ... and then there are the not-so-obvious ones, like links to higher obesity and suicide rates. And now this week, a new study has one more (pretty powerful) reason young girls in particular should stay away from the booze: It raises their breast cancer risks later on.
The study, conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found that the more alcohol a young woman drinks in the years between her first period and her first full-term pregnancy, the greater her chances are of developing the cancer. And the earlier she starts ... well, the more she ups the ante.
"Parents should educate their daughters about the link between drinking and risk of breast cancer and breast disease," warns study researcher Dr. Ying Liu, an instructor at the School of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine. "That's very important because this time period is very critical." And he's not kidding: the study found that for young girls who average about a drink a day between that first sign of a period and that first baby, the chances of developing breast cancer increase by 13 percent.
So just how did researchers arrive at this seemingly unrelated link? First, they compiled data from 91,005 moms who took part in what was called the Nurses' Health Study between the years 1989 and 2009. Taking a hard look at just how much alcohol the women consumed during those young adult years, they then compared those numbers to each woman's breast cancer rates later in life. In doing so, they also found that daily drinking boosts a young girl's risks of benign proliferative breast disease, too—by 15 percent. And while that might not actually be cancer in and of itself, having it does raise your risk of developing malignant breast cancer.
While this isn't actually the first time researchers have linked drinking to breast cancer, it's definitely the first time they've wound the clock back to look at the role teenage drinking plays in the grand scheme of things. And though there's still a lot more left to study, researchers think they are onto why exactly it's all happening: Breast cells are rapidly multiplying during these early years, which may be making them more vulnerable to carcinogens.