Women, alcohol, breast cancer . . . Gender plays a role in the way alcohol affects the body, since it is metabolized differently by men and women. Because women tend to weigh less than men, it’s generally easier for them to become intoxicated. But even in women and men of the same body weight, alcohol can be more potent for women and more toxic to their livers. One possible reason is that women have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that helps to break down alcohol in the stomach before it reaches the liver. Thus, more alcohol reaches the liver and eventually winds up in the bloodstream. Indeed, many women can easily push themselves over the legal limit after only one or two drinks. It is interesting to note that alcohol consumption is associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Alcohol increases the absorption of iron in the diet and "an accumulation of iron coupled with a diminished antioxidant defenses in breast tissue with advancing age," which explains the association with breast cancer and alcohol [Free Radical Biology Medicine 26:348-54, 1999]