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Frequently Asked Questions


Does moderate alcohol consumption have a harmful effect on persons who have had breast cancer? I have had a lumpectomy, for early-stage, non-invasive, estrogen-positive cancer, and just finished radiation. I understand I will be going on Tamoxifen.

I enjoy having wine or a cocktail with meals. I also like to drink wine because there is heart disease in my family, and I know alcohol has a mitigating effect on that disease. Can you shed light on this subject?

Thanks for visiting my web site. You have asked a great question, one that I have not yet answered on my web site.

Most studies looking at foods/beverages and risk of breast cancer recurrence have found NO correlation with alcohol consumption. That is good news for people like you who not only enjoy an occasional glass of wine with meals for the pleasure of it but also for the potential risk reduction for heart disease. (Nutrition and survival after the diagnosis of breast cancer: a review of the evidence, Rock CL, Demark-Wahnefried, W, J Clin Oncol. 2002 Aug 1;20(15):3302-16)

To maximize that double benefit, I switched from white wine to red and from regular beer to dark beers for the times that I do consume these beverages (~ one glass 1-4 nights per week). I want as many of these phytochemicals that fight both cancer and heart disease as possible to be in my foods, and both red wine and dark beer fit that "high" category. Using the same logic, I almost never have a mixed drink, most of which are negligible in phytochemicals (exceptions would be drinks made with orange or tomato juice).

In addition, close examination of the data showing increased risk of breast cancer with increased consumption of alcohol has shown that the correlation does not hold up if adequate folic acid is in the diet (~400 micrograms per day, which is the DRI and the amount usually in a multi-vitamin tablet). So eat your dark green leafy veggies (like kale!), which are powerhouses for folic acid and numerous helpful phytochemicals for protection against cancer and heart disease, too, when you enjoy your wine in moderation (no more than 1-4 ounce serving per day).

I have also included more information about food sources of folate (also called folic acid) below:

The FDA requires food manufacturers to add folic acid to enriched grain products such as breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, and rice so that each serving contains at least 20 % of the daily requirement. Some breakfast cereals contain 100 % (400 mcg) or more.

However, the FDA also emphasizes that adequate levels of folic acid, in the form of folate, can be obtained by eating food sources such as:

Leafy dark green vegetables
Legumes (dried beans and peas)
Citrus fruits and juices
Most berries

Other food sources include the following (highest to lowest sources):

  • 4 tablespoons black eyed beans: 220 mcg
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils: 179 mcg
  • 1 cup boiled collard greens: 177 mcg
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas: 141 mcg
  • 11 Brussels sprouts: 127 mcg
  • 1 medium papaya: 115 mcg
  • 1 cup cooked frozen peas: 94 mcg
  • 4 spears steamed or boiled asparagus: 88 mcg
  • 1/2 cup steamed broccoli: 52 mcg
  • 1-cup strawberries: 40 mcg
  • 1 medium orange: 39 mcg
  • 1 Large jacket potato: 39 mcg
  • 1 Large orange: 54 mcg
  • 1 Large hard-boiled egg: 22 mcg
  • 75g / 3 oz canned salmon: 17 mcg

Here are three delicious family favorite recipes from my web site that will put more folic acid on your plate:

Curried Lentil with Fruit Salad
Diana’s Mixed Green Salad
Garlic Kale


faq posted 11/04



Back to Main QandA Page

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Is soy safe to consume for women with ER+ breast cancer? posted 4/01, updated 1/05
Breast Cancer Is there any new information for breast cancer patients who have ER+ tumors regarding the safety of eating soy foods? posted 2/02
Breast Cancer I am currently taking Tamoxifen. My daughter heard on TV that I should be eating soy to make it work more efficiently. Do you know of any studies verifying this information? posted 5/01, updated 1/05
Breast Cancer I have read conflicting reports on the benefits vs. the dangers of Tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment. Have you found better nutritional alternatives?
Breast Cancer Should women with ER+ breast cancer avoid flaxseeds and flax oil that contain the phytoestrogens called lignans?
Breast Cancer Is weight gain common during breast cancer treatments? posted 8/00
Breast Cancer What are some good breast cancer web sites? posted 4/04
Breast Cancer Are there any foods I should avoid while taking Tamoxifen? posted 6/04
Breast Cancer Does moderate alcohol consumption have a harmful effect on persons who have had breast cancer? posted 11/04
Breast Cancer Should I be avoiding all caffeine to help fight my breast cancer?
posted 11/04


These questions and answers are intended to be of a general informative nature. Please consult with the Registered Dietitian in your cancer center or your health care provider for nutritional advice that can be individualized to your specific medical condition.

Contact Information:
Phone/Fax: 734/996-9260

P.O. Box 130221, Ann Arbor, MI  48113

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