Red Wine May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

A new Cedars-Sinai study shows that drinking moderate amounts of red wine may lower the risk of breast cancer

Over the past dozen or so years, there have been several studies touting the health benefits of components in red wine, as well as competing studies arguing that the positive effects are minimal or nonexistent.

A new study by highly respected Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, to be published online in the Journal of Women’s Health, now says that red wine may have a positive effect in preventing breast cancer, a disease long known to be encouraged by alcohol consumption.

Prior studies have shown that alcohol increases the body’s estrogen levels, which can foster the growth of cancer cells. However, the Cedars-Sinai study found that chemicals in the skins and seeds of red grapes slightly lowered estrogen levels while raising testosterone — a positive effect — among premenopausal women who drank eight ounces of red wine nightly for about a month. White wine didn’t work, although it wasn’t deemed harmful.

In the Cedars-Sinai study, 36 women were randomized to drink moderate amounts of either cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay daily for almost a month. They were then switched to the other type of wine. Blood was collected twice monthly to measure hormone levels.

Investigators said the change in hormone patterns suggested that red wine may stem the growth of cancer cells, providing the same effect as aromatase inhibitors, which help manage to estrogen levels, and which are currently used to treat breast cancer.

“If you were to have a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider a glass of red,” said Chrisandra Shufelt, M.D., assistant director of the Women’s Heart Centerat the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and one of the study’s co-authors. “Switching may shift your risk.” 

However, until larger studies are done, the study’s authors do not recommend that a nondrinker begin to drink red wine.