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MODERATE DRINKING INCREASES ESTROGEN LEVELS IN WOMEN AFTER MENOPAUSE

MODERATE DRINKING INCREASES ESTROGEN LEVELS IN WOMEN AFTER MENOPAUSE
 PITTSBURGH, Feb. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Moderate drinking by healthy postmenopausal women may be beneficial, according to a University of Pittsburgh study published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
 While other studies have shown moderate alcohol consumption to reduce the risk of heart disease in women after menopause, the Pitt study, for the first time, offers one explanation. Moderate alcoholic beverage consumption increases estrogen levels in women of this age group.
 Judith Gavaler, Ph.D., associate research professor of medicine and assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt, found evidence that alcohol may stimulate a biochemical process which converts androgens into estrogens. Androgens are thought of as male sex hormones, but they are also present at lower amounts in healthy women. The process of conversion, which is also influenced by body fat concentration, is the major source of estrogens in postmenopausal women.
 Moderate drinking, Gavaler reports, increased the levels of estradiol, an estrogen commonly synthesized as a pill and used therapeutically to ease the ill-health effects of menopause, such as increased risks of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. While as few as three drinks a week increased the levels of estradiol in the blood of normal women, there was no additional increase in estrogen levels when more than six drinks were consumed in a week. In women who abstained from drinking, estradiol levels were significantly lower than those who drank.
 "These findings only apply to women who have experienced menopause. In younger women who have menstrual function and reproductive capacity, even moderate alcoholic consumption could have adverse effects, such as disruption of menstruation and infants with fetal alcohol syndrome," cautions Gavaler.
 Of the 128 women in the study, 79 percent reported drinking alcoholic beverages; 91 percent of the alcohol users reported consumption of wine.
 "Moderate consumption of alcohol may be a beneficial source of estrogens because the incidence of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis are inversely related to estrogen levels," reports Gavaler.
 While some studies have suggested an increased risk of breast cancer for women who drink greater amounts of alcohol than what was consumed by the women in this study, Gavaler would like to see a large epidemiological study to definitively evaluate simultaneously the role of moderate alcoholic beverage consumption in influencing the risks of heart disease, osteoporosis and breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
 "The final question must be whether or not a modest but significant increase in estradiol levels associated with three to six weekly drinks can be judged harmful or beneficial in normal postmenopausal women."
 Gavaler's study was supported by grants from the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol.
 -0- 2/24/92
 /CONTACT: Lisa Rossi or Susan Manko of Health Sciences News Bureau, 412-647-3555, or fax, 412-624-3184/ CO: University of Pittsburgh ST: Pennsylvania IN: HEA SU:


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Date:Feb 24, 1992
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