Half-bottle of wine a night 'as bad as three cigarettes'

Henrietta Brewer
March 30, 2019

According to this study the cigarette equivalent of one bottle of wine per week is suggested to be the equivalent of 5 cigarettes for men and 10 cigarettes per week for women; and 3 bottles of wine per week is the equivalent to smoking 8 cigarettes per week for men and 23 cigarettes per week for women.

If non-smoking women and men drank a bottle of wine every week, their lifetime risk of cancer would increase by 1.4 per cent for women, and one percent for men. "Estimation of cigarette equivalent for alcohol provides a measure for communicating cancer risks exploiting historical messaging on smoking".

"At an individual level, cancer risk represented by drinking or smoking will vary and, for many individuals, the impact of 10 units of alcohol (one bottle of wine) or five to 10 cigarettes may be very different".

Researchers at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Bangor University and University of Southampton carried out the study.

We don't yet have the same vast body of evidence for the effects of alcohol compared to smoking, but we do know that alcohol itself can directly cause damage to cells that can trigger cancer, and there is evidence that alcohol consumption increases the risk of seven different types of cancer - that of the mouth, throat, voice box, oesophagus, bowel, liver and breast. "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.

Jane Green, professor of epidemiology and co-director of the cancer epidemiology unit at the University of Oxford, said: "It is important to view these results in context".

The study, published today (March 28) in the journal BMC Public Health, is the first to estimate the "cigarette equivalent" of alcohol, with regard to cancer risk.

According to WDIV, the study was conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom, where the moderate level of drinking for men and women is 14 units of alcohol.

"Our findings suggest that the "cigarette equivalent" of a bottle of wine is five cigarettes for men and 10 for women per week". In men, this risk appears to be associated primarily with cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, whereas in women, 55% of cases appear to be associated with breast cancer.

A new United Kingdom study estimates that consuming one 750ml bottle of wine per week increases the likelihood of developing cancer even in non-smokers. "This study purely addresses cancer risk in isolation". Indeed, studies in both the USA and United Kingdom have found that many people aren't aware of alcohol's link to cancer. "Alcohol and tobacco attributable fractions were subtracted from lifetime general population risks of developing alcohol- and smoking-related cancers, to estimate the lifetime cancer risk in alcohol-abstaining non-smokers", said the authors.

"Research is clear - the less a person drinks, the lower the risk of cancer. 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".

The researchers used lifetime cancer risk data from Cancer Research UK, previously published data on the number of cancers in the population that can be attributed to tobacco and alcohol, and relative cancer risk data for moderate levels of alcohol and tobacco use.

The research follows a further study released previous year which found that people who enjoy the odd alcoholic drink are less likely to suffer a premature death than those who don't drink at all.

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