Cancer risks: Drinking a bottle of wine per week is the equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes a week

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Drinking a bottle of wine per week is believed to be the equivalent to smoking 5 cigarettes a week for men and 10 cigarettes a week for women when it comes to your cancer risk.

On paper we are tempted to think there there isn’t a link between these two pleasures and cancer.  However these unhealthy habits can contribute in the same way.  At least this is what a team of researchers have announced following a recent study.  They have suggested that risk of cancer increases in the same way for someone who drinks the equivalent to bottle of wine per week and for those who smoke between 5 and 10 cigarettes per week.  (The number of cigarettes is lower for men as it is for women.)  The details of this new study were published in the BMC Public Health journal.

Alcohol and cancer

Studies that look into the dangers of alcohol often look into drinking alcohol excessively. The risks are well documented.  The basic idea of this study is to better understand the risks of cancer linked to moderate consumption of alcohol.  The aim is to give people a better idea of the risks. It also allow people visualise the effect even a moderate consumption of alcohol can have on your body.  The researchers decided to present their study but comparing the effects of alcohol to something that is often considered worst for your health.  The researchers therefore chose to make a comparison with the consumption of 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,” explained Dr. Theresa Hydes of the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and lead author of the study. “We hope that by using cigarettes as the comparator we could communicate this message more effectively to help individuals make more informed lifestyle choices.”

cigarettes and wine
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This study does not suggest that the moderate consumption of alcohol presents exactly the same health risks as smoking.  The study is focusing on a cancer risk and doesn’t look at other illnesses that are heart or respiratory related. The study is only making a comparison between how many cigarettes smoked is the equivalent to a bottle of wine when it comes to a cancer risk?

After an analysis of the National British information regarding cancer risks, researchers have estimated that non-smoking men that drink a bottle of wine per wine have a 1% increased risk of cancer in comparison to 1.4% for women.  In other words out of 1,000 men who drink the equivalent of a bottle of wine per week, about 10 will have cancer later in their life or 14 when it comes to women.  Women have a greater risk as breast cancer can be linked to alcohol.

Many smokers do not just some five or ten cigarettes a day. In fact in France the average is as high as 10 cigarettes a day and about a hundred per week.  This shows that other factors can contribute to bad health whether it is smoking, drinking alcohol, never exercising or eating an unhealthy diet.  Nevertheless the authors of this study have noted that “these results do show that moderate alcohol consumption is a major public health problem. And that must be taken into account.”


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