Everyone knows, these days, about the cancer risks associated with smoking cigarettes. Perhaps not as many understand that drinking alcohol also poses some elevated risk for developing cancer. A new study, however, has compared and quantified these risks in a new report suggesting that drinking a single bottle of wine per week can bear the equivalent cancer risk of at least five cigarettes.
Study author Dr. Theresa Hydes comments, “It is well-established that heavy drinking is linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, gullet, bowel, liver, and breast. Yet, in contrast to smoking, this is not widely understood by the public.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, data shows there are “clear patterns” related to alcohol consumption and the development of several types of cancer: liver cancer, colorectal cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, and head and neck cancer. Essentially, the more you drink (both acutely and cumulatively), the higher your risk for developing cancer. However, the study also suggest that even very light drinks (one or fewer drinks per day, or up to 7 per week) have about the same moderately elevated risk as binge drinkers (sporadic drinking of at least four servings in one session).
From this data, then, a British team of researchers from University of Southampton, Bangor University, and the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust investigated the data, particularly in how alcohol consumption might compare against smoking.
Analyzing data taken from Cancer Research UK—regarding lifetime cancer risk across the general population—and data taken from cancer patients linked specifically to tobacco or alcohol, they calculated the likelihood for developing cancer among men and women. They found that out of 1,000 non-smoking men who drank one bottle of wine for week, at least 10 more would develop cancer in their lifetime. For women, the number was 14. This is the equivalent of smoking 5 to 10 cigarettes per week, respectively; and, keep in mind, it is an estimate.
Dr. Hydes goes on to say, “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 any way equivalent to smoking. Our finds relate to lifetime risk across the population.”