While increased alcohol intake in general has been associated with elevated breast cancer risk, the results of a study published online on December 7, 2011 in the Journal of Women's Health indicate that elements in red wine could be protective against the development of the disease. "Aromatase inhibitors prevent the conversion of androgens to estrogen and occur naturally in grapes, grape juice, and red, but not white wine," the authors note in their introduction to the article.
In a cross-over study, Glenn D. Braunstein, MD and his associates at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles assigned 36 premenopausal women to eight ounces of red wine daily for one month followed by eight ounces of white wine for one month, or the reverse regimen. Blood samples collected at two points during the women's menstrual cycles were analyzed for the hormones estradiol, estrone, androstenedione, total and free testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin, luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone.
In addition to elevations of luteinizing hormone and free testosterone, the team found a small reduction in estrogen levels among participants who consumed red wine for one month in comparison with those who consumed white wine. In contrast, alcohol in general can increase estrogen levels, which fuels the most common type of breast cancer. "There are chemicals in red grape skin and red grape seeds that are not found in white grapes that may decrease breast cancer risk," stated Dr Braunstein, who is vice president for Clinical Innovation and the James R. Klinenberg, MD, Chair in Medicine at Cedars-Sinai.
"If you were to have a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider a glass of red," remarked study coauthor Chrisandra Shufelt, MD, who is an assistant director of the Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. "Switching may shift your risk."
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