Teenage girls who drink frequently may have an increased risk for non-cancerous breast disease and possibly breast cancer.
A study co-authored by Catherine Berkey of Harvard Medical School assessed the drinking habits of girls who participated in the "Growing Up Today Study" when they were 9-15 years old. A follow-up survey, done when the participants were 16-23 years old, collected information on the girls' drinking habits, and a third survey done at age 18-27 asked questions about breast disease.
The researchers found that survey participants who drank daily or nearly every day as teenagers were more than 5 times more likely to develop benign breast disease (BBD). BBD includes a number of non-cancerous conditions and is known to increase a person's risk for breast cancer. Risk for BBD increased along with frequency of alcohol consumption.
Why Is This Important?
Teen drinking is known to increase the likelihood of later alcohol problems and is also associated with accidental injury and death. However, we often fail to consider the impact that alcohol consumption may have on the growing teen body. This study is an important reminder that underage drinking, especially heavy drinking, can have important health consequences in the future--in addition to being a risk factor for alcoholism.