Medical Risks for Women Who Drink Alcohol
Article first published online: 9 OCT 2008
1998 by the Society of General Internal Medicine
Journal of General Internal Medicine
Volume 13, Issue 9, pages 627–639, September 1998
How to Cite
Bradley, K. A., Badrinath, S., Bush, K., Boyd-Wickizer, J. and Anawalt, B. (1998), Medical Risks for Women Who Drink Alcohol. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 13: 627–639. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.1998.cr187.x
- Issue published online: 9 OCT 2008
- Article first published online: 9 OCT 2008
- Cited By
- alcohol consumption;
To summarize for clinicians recent epidemiologic evidence regarding medical risks of alcohol use for women.
MEDLINE and PsychINFO, 1990 through 1996, were searched using key words “women” or “woman,” and “alcohol.” MEDLINE was also searched for other specific topics and authors from 1980 through 1996. Data were extracted and reviewed regarding levels of alcohol consumption associated with mortality, cardiovascular disease, alcohol-related liver disease, injury, osteoporosis, neurologic symptoms, psychiatric comorbidity, fetal alcohol syndrome, spontaneous abortion, infertility, menstrual symptoms, breast cancer, and gynecologic malignancies. Gender-specific data from cohort studies of general population or large clinical samples are primarily reviewed.
Women develop many alcohol-related medical problems at lower levels of consumption than men, probably reflecting women’s lower total body water, gender differences in alcohol metabolism, and effects of alcohol on postmenopausal estrogen levels. Mortality and breast cancer are increased in women who report drinking more than two drinks daily. Higher levels of alcohol consumption by women are associated with increased menstrual symptoms, hypertension, and stroke. Women who drink heavily also appear to have increased infertility and spontaneous abortion. Adverse fetal effects occur after variable amounts of alcohol consumption, making any alcohol use during pregnancy potentially harmful.
In general, advising nonpregnant women who drink alcohol to have fewer than two drinks daily is strongly supported by the epidemiologic literature, although specific recommendations for a particular woman should depend on her medical history and risk factors.