Drinking one bottle of wine carries same cancer risk as 10 cigarettes, says new report
Drinking one bottle of wine a week carries the same cancer risk as smoking five to 10 cigarettes, new research claims.
For women, drinking one bottle increases their lifetime risk of developing cancer as much as smoking 10 cigarettes a day, while for men it is similar to smoking five.
The danger is higher for women due to the increased risk of breast cancer from drinking, according to researchers from the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Bangor University and the University of Southampton.
The research team calculated that if 1,000 non-smoking men and 1,000 non-smoking women each drank one bottle of wine per week across their lifetime, around 10 men and 14 women would develop cancer as a result.
Furthermore, if 1,000 men and 1,000 women drank three bottles of wine per week throughout their lives, around 19 men and 36 women would develop cancer as a result.
In the journal BMC Public Health, the study claimed that one bottle of wine per week was associated with an increased absolute lifetime cancer risk for non-smokers of one per cent for men and 1.4 per cent for women.
Dr Theresa Hydes, who worked on the study, said researchers hoped the new study made the dangers linked to heavy drinking and smoking easier to understand.
"It is well established that heavy drinking is linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, gullet, bowel, liver and breast," she stated. "Yet, in contrast to smoking, this is not widely understood by the public. We hope that by using cigarettes as the comparator we could communicate this message more effectively to help individuals make more informed lifestyle choices."
She continued: "We must be absolutely clear that this study is not saying that drinking alcohol in moderation is in any way equivalent to smoking. Our finds relate to lifetime risk across the population."
Jane Green, professor of epidemiology and co-director of the cancer epidemiology unit at the University of Oxford, added that "it is important to view these results in context".
"For both men and women in the UK, the lifetime risk of cancer is around 50 per cent," she explained. "The authors estimate that lifetime risk is around one per cent higher for men and women who drink a bottle of wine a week, or who smoke five to 10 cigarettes a week, than for those who neither smoke nor drink."
Sophia Lowes, from Cancer Research UK, also commented on the study, stating: "Research is clear - the less a person drinks, the lower the risk of cancer. Small changes like having more alcohol-free days can make a big difference to how much you drink. But smoking causes over four times as many cases of cancer in the UK compared to alcohol.
"If you're a smoker, the best thing you can do for your health is stop completely, and you're most likely to be successful using support from your local free stop-smoking service."
However, a spokeswoman from the Alcohol Information Partnership (which is funded by the drinks industry) criticised the research for being "confusing" for the public.
They stated: "The conclusions drawn from this study are both unhelpful and confusing at a time when the public is being bombarded by contradictory warnings of risk. There are a wide variety of genetic and lifestyle factors that can contribute to an increased risk of cancer and the study itself is clear that drinking in moderation is not equivalent to smoking."