A regular glass of red wine 'can help women ward off breast cancer'

drinking wine

It may stain your teeth but red wine was found to reduce oestrogen levels, giving a protective effect against cancer

Women who enjoy a regular glass of red wine could reduce their risk of breast cancer, according to a new medical study.

The study, from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles challenges the widely-held belief that all types of alcohol consumption heighten the risk of developing breast cancer.

Doctors have long known that alcohol increases the body's oestrogen levels, fostering the growth of cancer cells.

But the Cedars-Sinai study found that chemicals in the skins and seeds of red grapes slightly lowered oestrogen levels while elevating testosterone among pre-menopausal women who drank eight ounces of red wine nightly for about a month.

Researchers called their findings encouraging, saying women who occasionally drink alcohol might want to reassess their choices.

'If you were to have a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider a glass of red,' said study co-author Dr Chrisandra Shufelt.

'Switching may shift your risk.'

Dr Shufelt noted that breast cancer is the leading type of women's cancer in the U.S., accounting for more than 230,000 new cases last year, or 30 percent of all female cancer diagnoses. An estimated 39,000 women died from the disease in 2011, according to the American Cancer Society.

In the Cedars-Sinai study, 36 women were randomised to drink either Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay daily for almost a month, then switched to the other type of wine.

Blood was collected twice each month to measure hormone levels. Researchers sought to determine whether red wine mimics the effects of aromatase inhibitors, which play a key role in managing estrogen levels.

Aromatase inhibitors are currently used to treat breast cancer.

Investigators said the change in hormone patterns suggested that red wine may stem the growth of cancer cells, as has been shown in test tube studies.

Co-author Dr Glenn Braunstein said the results do not mean that white wine increases the risk of breast cancer but that grapes used in those varieties may lack the same protective elements found in reds.

'There are chemicals in red grape skin and red grape seeds that are not found in white grapes that may decrease breast cancer risk,' he said.

The study was published online in the Journal of Women's Health.