Anything more than a couple of glasses of alcohol each day may increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence among women, especially those who are obese or overweight and in the post-menopausal stage of their lives, new research indicates.

However, having three to four drinks per week may not cause the increased risk and in fact may lower the risk of death from non-breast cancer related health issue, says the study reported in the latest issue of the Journal for Clinical Oncology.

The research team, led by Marilyn L. Kwann of the Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California suggests that the findings are consistent with what is already known about alcohol's role in increasing the risk of developing primary breast cancer.

"But I want to emphasize that women who consume less than three to four drinks per week didn't see any increased risk in terms of recurrence or breast cancer death. And, in fact, we did see a suggestion that women who consume small amounts of alcohol get some protection against the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease," Kwan is quoted as saying in the medical journal.

Over a two year period starting in 2000, Kwan and her team of researchers recruited 1,900 women in California and Utah who had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer about two to three years ago.

The researchers got the women to complete a dietary survey indicating their routine consumption of wine, beer or liquor. It was found that about 50 percent of the women were considered drinkers, while a majority just drank wine. More than 40 percent admitted to regular liquor drinking while 36 percent had only beer.

The follow-up study that lasted seven years saw 293 women experiencing breast cancer recurrence while 273 died from a variety of health complications. The research team found that the study participants were mostly post-menopausal or had problems related to obesity of overweight.

Similarly, that group of women faced a 1.5 times greater risk of dying from breast cancer if they followed the same drinking patterns while those who had cut down on their alcohol intake possibly faced a reduced risk of dying from causes other than breast cancer.