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Ask Tufts Experts October 2013 Issue

Q: If you don’t have a family history of breast cancer, do the cardiovascular benefits of drinking red wine outweigh the cancer risks from alcohol consumption?

Answer :  AJoel B. Mason, MD, Tufts professor of medicine and nutrition and director of the HNRCA Vitamins & Carcinogenesis Laboratory, replies: “In general, the increased risk of cancer associated with alcoholic beverages is observed only when habitual consumption exceeds levels of moderate consumption. Moderate drinking is defined as an average of two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. A drink is defined as 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer, 5 ounces (148 mL) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of 80-proof distilled spirits. On the other hand, the purported benefits of red wine on cardiovascular health are observed within these limits of moderate consumption. Therefore, if red wine consumption remains within these guidelines one might realize a benefit to heart health without invoking any additional risk of cancer.”

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