Recognized a link between cancer and tobacco helps to demonstrate the link between alcohol and cancer, as well as to raise awareness about alcohol-related risks, according to a study published in BMC Public Health.
Scientists at University hospital Southampton (University Hospital Southampton), Bangor University (Bangor University) and University of Southampton (University of Southampton) assessed the risk of cancer associated with the use of moderate amounts of alcohol, and compared it with the risk of cancer associated with Smoking.
To calculate the possible risk of cancer in a lifetime associated with the use of 10 units of alcohol (bottle of wine) or 10 cigarettes a week, used data from Cancer Research UK.
“This is the only study offering “cigarette equivalent” from the point of view of harm. We sought to answer the question solely from the point of view of cancer risk – that is, if you look at cancer in isolation from other harm – how many cigarettes contained in the bottle of wine? Our results show that “cigarette equivalent” of a bottle of wine – 5 cigarettes for men and 10 for women in a week,” said Dr. Theresa Heights (Theresa Hydes), one of the authors of the study.
Scientists estimate that the absolute risk of cancer (risk of developing cancer in a lifetime) associated with the use of one bottle of wine per week, non-Smoking men is about 1% for women and 1.4%.
In men, it appears to be primarily associated with cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, whereas in women, 55% of cases are associated with breast cancer.
Drinking three bottles of wine per week (approximately half a bottle per day) increases the likelihood of occurrence and development of a wide range of different health problems. This level of consumption increases the absolute risk of cancer to 1.9% in men and 3.6% in women. It is the equivalent of Smoking about 8 cigarettes a week for men and 23 for women.
“This study says that drinking alcohol in moderation is equivalent to Smoking. Our results are associated with a lifetime risk for the population. At the individual level, the risk of developing cancer in the form of alcohol or Smoking will vary, and for many people the impact of ten units of alcohol (one bottle of wine) or 5-10 cigarettes can be very different,” explained Theresa Heights.
The study is not a comparison of overall mortality rates from Smoking compared to alcohol, because it does not account for other effects – respiratory and cardiovascular disease, or liver disease.
“Our estimate of cigarette equivalent of alcohol provides a useful measure to clarify the possible risks of cancer, which uses the historically successful dissemination of information about Smoking. It is well known that alcoholism is associated with cancer of the oral cavity, throat, larynx, esophagus, bowel, liver and breast. However, unlike Smoking, is not widely understood by the public. We hope that using cigarettes as a comparator, we could more effectively convey this message is to help people make more informed lifestyle choices,” said Theresa Heights.