Drinking a bottle of wine per week has been said to increase the lifetime risk of cancer as smoking five to 10 cigarettes in the same period.
This was disclosed in a new study by Theresa Hydes and her team from the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Bangor University and University of Southampton.
The study published in the journal BioMedCentral public health attributed the finding to increased risk of breast cancer in 14 out of 1,000, women. It also estimated that 10 in 1,000 men would develop gastrointestinal cancers at some point in their lives from drinking one bottle of wine each week.
“It is well established that heavy drinking is linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, gullet, bowel, liver and breast,” said Hydes.
“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.”
“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.
“At an individual level, cancer risk represented by drinking or smoking will vary and, for many individuals, the impact of 10 units of alcohol [equivalent to a bottle of wine] or five to 10 cigarettes may be very different.”
in agreement with the findings, the chairman of the alcohol health alliance, Ian Gilmore said even at relatively low levels, alcohol can have serious consequences for our health.
“The chief medical officers recommend drinking no more than 14 units a week to keep the risks low but, worryingly, few people are aware of the guidelines,” he added.
“It is important to view these results in context,” said Jane Green, co-director of the cancer epidemiology unit at the University of Oxford.
“For both men and women in the UK, the lifetime risk of cancer is around 50 per cent.
“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.
“The average UK drinker reports drinking the equivalent of about a bottle-and-a-half of wine a week and the average smoker smokes about 10 cigarettes a day, or 70 a week.
“This work confirms that, for most smokers, their smoking carries much greater risks for cancer than does alcohol for most drinkers.
“Moderate levels of drinking are in absolute terms particularly important for cancer risk in women because they are associated with increased risk of breast cancer, which is very common.”