Alcohol and risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women: An analysis of etiological heterogeneity by multiple tumor characteristics

Roni T. Falk, Paige Maas, Catherine Schairer, Nilanjan Chatterjee, Jerome E. Mabie, Christopher Cunningham, Saundra S. Buys, Claudine Isaacs, Regina G. Ziegler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Alcohol consumption is an established risk factor for breast cancer. Whether associations vary by specific tumor characteristics independent of other characteristics is unclear. We evaluated the association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial cohort (54,562 women aged 55-74 years recruited at 10 US screening centers between 1993 and 2001; median follow-up, 8.9 years; 1,905 invasive breast cancer cases). Hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for subtypes defined by histological type and estrogen receptor (ER)/progesterone receptor (PR) status were calculated with standard Cox models. A novel 2-stage Cox model assessed heterogeneity in risk for individual tumor characteristics while adjusting for others. Significant trends across categories of alcohol consumption were observed, with hazard ratios for those consuming 7 or more drinks per week versus never drinkers as follows: for estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) cancer, 1.48 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.19, 1.83); for progesterone receptor-positive (PR+) cancer, 1.64 (95% CI: 1.31, 2.06); for ER+/PR+ cancer, 1.63 (95% CI: 1.30, 2.05); and for mixed ductal/lobular cancer, 2.51 (95% CI: 1.20, 5.24). For ER+ and PR+ cancers, trends were significant for ductal and mixed ductal/lobular types. PR status explained the positive association with ER status (for ER status, Pheterogeneity = 0.70 after adjustment for PR status). Alcohol consumption was not associated with all breast cancer subtypes. Future work should emphasize large collaborative studies, precise definition of subtypes, and adjustment for correlated tumor characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-717
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • alcohol
  • breast cancer
  • ductal carcinoma
  • estrogen receptor
  • lobular carcinoma
  • progesterone receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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