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Table of Contents > Articles > Breast Cancer Risk Factor Reduced:
Breast Cancer Risk Factor Reduced:

Folate May Counter Moderate Alcohol Consumption

Increasing your intake of green leafy vegetables, fruits, and grains may reduce your risk of breast cancer if you are a woman who regularly consumes moderate amounts of alcohol.

Compared with nondrinkers, women who consume one alcoholic drink per day have a slightly increased risk for getting breast cancer (those who consume two to five drinks a day have about a 1.5 times increased risk). Additional intake of folate, however, may reduce this risk, according to new research. Folate is a vitamin found naturally in green leafy vegetables, fruits, and grains, and is also available in dietary supplements. A recent study showed that women who drank at least 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor every day were able to reduce their breast cancer risk by also consuming a minimum of 600 micrograms (mcg) of folate a day. Taking folate did not appear to benefit women who have a family history of breast cancer or women who drank less alcohol.

The study was the first of its kind, and more research is needed. For now, the authors suggest that adding 400 to 800 mcg of folate a day to the diet may improve a woman's overall health. Getting folate into your daily diet is easy to do: some breakfast cereals contain up to 400 mcg per serving; a half-cup of spinach has 130 mcg; an orange has about 50 mcg. Starting the day with cereal and following up with 5 to 6 servings of fruits and vegetables throughout the day will most likely provide the recommended amount of folate. Another option is to take a dietary supplement—most multivitamins contain 400 mcg of folate.

If you have concerns about how much alcohol you drink, talk with your doctor. He or she can recommend resources to help you cut back or quit if necessary.


The Breast Cancer Resource Center—The American Cancer Society. Available at: Accessed on October 9, 1999.

How Folate Can Help Prevent Birth Defects. Reprint 98-2306. Available at: Accessed on October 18, 1999.

Zhang S, Hunger DJ, Hankinson SE, et al. A prospective study of folate intake and the risk of breast cancer. JAMA. 1999;281(17):1632-1637.

Review Date: October 1999
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

Breast Cancer

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