Drinking Raises Estogen Levels

Alcohol Does Not Change Level of Natural Estrogen

Science News Press Releases for the week of December 4, 1996

CHICAGO–Drinking alcohol can substantially increase circulating
estrogen in postmenopausal women taking oral estrogen, according to an
article in this week’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical
Association (JAMA).

Elizabeth S. Ginsburg, M.D., from the department of Obstetrics and
Gynecology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass., and colleagues
conducted a double-blind, crossover study of 24 postmenopausal women to
determine the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on the circulating
level of estradiol, the most important of the estrogen hormones.

The study reported that estradiol levels increased by 327 percent
following alcohol ingestion in women on estrogen replacement therapy
(ERT). Alcohol did not change estradiol significantly in women who did
not use ERT.

The researchers write: “Changes in estradiol were significantly
correlated with changes in blood alcohol levels during the ascending limb
of the blood alcohol curve as well as during the descending limb of the
blood alcohol curve. Moreover, significant increases in estradiol were
detected within 10 minutes after drinking when blood alcohol levels were

There are an estimated 37,948,000 women over the age of 50 years in
the United States, and approximately 25 percent of postmenopausal women
use some form of ERT according to information cited in the study. It is
generally acknowledged that ERT has a complex pattern of risks and
benefits. ERT may reduce risk of developing osteoporosis and heart
disease. However, ERT may also have adverse effects such as an increased
risk of cholelithiasis and breast cancer.

Moderate alcohol consumption also appears to decrease the incidence of
coronary artery disease but may increase the incidence of breast cancer.
The combination of ERT and alcohol ingestion may be additive and increase
the risk of breast cancer more than either alone. Little information is
available about the potential interactions of ERT and acute alcohol
ingestion in post menopausal women. If alcohol alters the intended
biological effects of ERT, this could shift the risk-benefit ratio in an
undesirable direction, according to the researchers.

There is also evidence to suggest that there is a cumulative effect of
regular alcohol ingestion on estradiol in postmenopausal women. One study
of 164 postmenopausal women found that serum estradiol was significantly
higher in women drinking one to 28 drinks weekly than in abstainers.

The authors conclude: “As evidence of the benefits of ERT for
postmenopausal women accumulates, it is important for the physician to
evaluate the risks and benefits for each individual on the basis of her
medical history and lifestyle. Our data indicate that women who drank
alcohol and use oral estradiol for estrogen replacement may have
significantly higher circulating estradiol levels than those reported in
studies advocating the use of ERT.”

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