Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 133, Issue 2, pp 785-792

First online:

Alcohol, genetics and risk of breast cancer in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial

  • Catherine A. McCartyAffiliated withEssentia Institute of Rural HealthMarshfield Clinic Research Foundation Email author 
  • , Douglas J. RedingAffiliated withMarshfield Clinic Research Foundation
  • , John ComminsAffiliated withInformation Management Services, Inc.
  • , Craig WilliamsAffiliated withInformation Management Services, Inc.
  • , Meredith YeagerAffiliated withNational Cancer Institute
  • , James K. BurmesterAffiliated withMarshfield Clinic Research Foundation
  • , Catherine SchairerAffiliated withNational Cancer Institute
  • , Regina G. ZieglerAffiliated withNational Cancer Institute

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


We tested the hypothesis that genes involved in the alcohol oxidation pathway modify the association between alcohol intake and breast cancer. Subjects were women aged 55–74 at baseline from the screening arm of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial. Incident breast cancers were identified through annual health surveys. Controls were frequency matched to cases by age and year of entry into the trial. A self-administered food frequency questionnaire queried frequency and usual serving size of beer, wine or wine coolers, and liquor. Three SNPs in genes in the alcohol metabolism pathway were genotyped: alcohol dehydrogenase 2, alcohol dehydrogenase 3, and CYP2E1. The study included 1,041 incident breast cancer cases and 1,070 controls. In comparison to non-drinkers, the intake of any alcohol significantly increased the risk of breast cancer, and this risk increased with each category of daily alcohol intake (OR 2.01, 95% CI 1.14, 3.53) for women who drank three or more standard drinks per day. Stratification by genotype revealed significant gene/environment interactions. For the ADH1B gene, there were statistically significant associations between all levels of alcohol intake and risk of breast cancer (all OR > 1.34 and all lower CI > 1.01), while for women with the GA or AA genotype, there were no significant associations between alcohol intake and risk of breast cancer. Alcohol intake, genes involved in alcohol metabolism and their interaction increase the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. This information could be useful for primary care providers to personalize information about breast cancer risk reduction.


Breast cancer Alcohol Metabolizing enzyme Genetics Risk factors