The study was the first to estimate the "cigarette equivalent" of alcohol in terms of cancer risk. In conducting the study, researchers used national data from the U.K. on the lifetime risk of cancer in the general population and previously published studies on the relationship between alcohol, smoking, and cancer.
Based on the data they have gathered, among nonsmokers, drinking a bottle of wine every week is associated with a one percent increase in lifetime cancer risk for men. For women, it can increase the lifetime cancer risk by 1.4 percent. Drinking a bottle of wine per week is equivalent to smoking five cigarettes each week for men and 10 for women. In men, the risk appears to be linked mainly to cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, while in women, more than 50 percent of the cases appear to be associated with breast cancer. (Related: Drinking Alcohol Raises Breast Cancer Risk as Much as Smoking Cigarettes.)
"Our estimation of a cigarette equivalent for alcohol provides a useful measure for communicating possible cancer risks that exploits successful historical messaging on smoking," lead study author Dr. Theresa Hyde said in a statement.
The researchers hope that by comparing wine consumption with cigarette smoking, they could communicate the cancer risks of alcohol. Cigarettes are known to cause cancer, and discovering that some amount of alcohol is the equivalent of some amount of cigarettes, in terms of cancer risk, is beneficial for the general public.
They also note that they only considered cancer risk, and not the risks of other health conditions, such as heart disease, liver disease, and respiratory disease. Nonetheless, they believe that their findings emphasized moderate levels of drinking as an important public health issue.
"We hope that by using cigarettes as the comparator we could communicate this message more effectively to help individuals make more informed lifestyle choices," said Hydes.
The exact way that alcohol raises cancer risk has not been completely understood. However, there might be several ways it can increase risk, depending on the type of cancer. Here are some of them:
Learn more about how alcohol contributes to cancer development at CancerCauses.news.