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Can Red Wine Reduce Your Risk for Breast Cancer?

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Breast cancer remains the leading cancer in U.S. women. Over the last decade headlines have warned us that alcohol consumption, including wine, can increase the risk of breast cancer.

A study in the Journal of Women's Health found that chemicals in the skins and seeds of red grapes slightly lowered estrogen levels while elevating testosterone in premenopausal women who each drank eight ounces of red wine -- just under two glasses (eight ounces) -- daily for about a month.

The more estrogen that women are exposed to over a lifetime, the higher the risk of breast cancer. Based on this new study, co-authored by Chrisandra Shufelt, M.D., assistant director of the Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, red wine may serve as a nutritional aromatase inhibitor (AI) that prevents the conversion of androgens to estrogen, thus lowering a woman's risk for breast cancer.

The AI activity in red wine has been attributed to the phytochemicals and not to the alcohol content. The isoflavone phytoestrogens found in red wine has been identified as a protective chemical. Other chemicals in wine, such as resveratrol, have not been clearly established as inhibiting aromatase, even at higher doses than those found in wine.

Dr. Shufelt said: "If you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider opting for red wine."

Drinking red wine in moderation may reduce a risk factor for breast cancer, acting as a natural weapon. White wine does not have the same protective attributes. Sorry, chardonnay lovers.

Good news for our non-drinkers: Glenn Braunstein, M.D., chair of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Medicine and co-author of this study, said, "For those who don't drink, don't start. Just eat red grapes."

As George Krucik, M.D., of the Healthline.com Breast Cancer Learning Center, told me: "So the bottom line is, if you choose to drink alcohol in the form of wine, try red vs. white based on this small study."

Combined with a healthy lifestyle, drinking red wine could reduce your risk factor for breast cancer. I'll drink to that!

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