Drinking bottle of wine equivalent to smoking as many as 10 cigarettes

Henrietta Strickland
March 30, 2019

For women, drinking one bottle of wine per week increases the absolute lifetime risk of cancer to the same extent as smoking 10 cigarettes a week, mostly due to an increased risk of breast cancer caused by drinking, according to the study. So for example, on average, American men have a 12% absolute risk of developing prostate cancer, meaning 12 out of 100 will develop the cancer, and 88 out of 100 men will not.

For their calculations, the research team from the University of Southampton and Bangor University, used data on cancer risk from Cancer Research UK and data on the number of cancers in the population that could be linked to tobacco and alcohol. This level of alcohol consumption is lower than what the CDC now deems excessive, yet could increase men's risk for cancer by nearly two percent and women's risk by nearly five percent.

And if 1,000 men and 1,000 women drank three bottles of wine per week throughout their lives, around 19 men and 36 women could develop cancer as a result.

The UK researchers said this was a good way of communicating the health risks of moderate drinking.

Dr Minouk Schoemaker, scientist at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, who conducts research into the causes of breast cancer, said the study offered an "interesting insight" but the picture was not simple.

"Yet, in contrast to smoking, this is not widely understood by the public". In other words, depending on an individual's other risk factors and lifestyle choices related to their likelihood of developing cancer, drinking that much wine could further elevate their risk rate.

"People who consume alcohol should try to stick within the recommended guidelines of 14 units per week", Prof Britton added.

"For both men and women in the United Kingdom, the lifetime risk of cancer is around 50%".

And the numbers of cigarettes "equivalent" to alcohol are small, when most smokers smoke many more a day. Their findings showed that if 1,000 male nonsmokers and 1,000 female nonsmokers drank a bottle of wine per week, 10 extra men and 14 women could develop cancer during their lifetime. Smoking kills up to half its users-about 6 million, plus another 890,000 from secondhand smoke each year, while 6.8 percent of men and 2.2 percent of women die from alcohol use each year.

The guidance also says there is no "safe" level of drinking when it comes to health risk.

"Research is clear - the less a person drinks, the lower the risk of cancer". And if you don't now drink, there's certainly no need to start.

"But smoking causes over four times as many cases of cancer in the United Kingdom 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".

It's important to note that the study's authors wanted to clarify drinking alcohol in moderation is not equivalent to smoking in any way.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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