Everyone knows about the dreaded, routine questions you get asked at your physical every year, such as "Do you get enough sleep? Do you exercise regularly? How many drinks do you have per week?" They're no fun, and usually a little awkward.

I always thought that these questions weren't important until my last physical, when my doctor let me in on an important secret. She told me they use these questions to monitor your risk for certain diseases, particularly cancer. 

Specifically, she shared with me that there is a definite link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. I was shocked, so I did some more research and realized she was right.

The facts

Drinking alcohol changes the way women's bodies metabolize estrogen, causing estrogen levels to increase. High amounts of estrogen in the blood are known to increase a woman's risk for breast cancer. 

Women who drink 2-3 alcoholic drinks per day have a 20% greater risk of developing breast cancer than nondrinkers. For every additional drink, the risk increases by about 7%. That might not sound like a lot, but the number add up quickly.

Think about a typical weekend night as a college student. You're probably drinking way more than 2-3 drinks every time you go out, which is already dangerous for other reasons. Every time you do that, you are putting your body at a greatly increased risk for developing breast cancer. 

What you can do

There are plenty of other ways to reduce your risk for breast cancer, including maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly, and following a balanced diet. Limiting your alcohol intake is one of many positive steps you can take to avoid a breast cancer diagnosis. 

Additionally, make sure you get screened for breast cancer regularly, especially if you have a family history of it. You should give yourself a breast exam every month, and begin getting yearly mammograms after you turn 40. 

Next time you reach for another glass of wine or order another drink at the bar, think about the many negative effects alcohol can have on your body. When you're older (and hopefully breast cancer-free) your body will thank you for making an effort to stay healthy.