Drinking a bottle of wine a week carries the same cancer risk as smoking between five and 10 cigarettes. That’s the new equivalency discovered recently by researchers in England and Wales.
In the first study of its kind, the researchers compared the cancer risks of drinking to those of smoking. For women, the weekly bottle of wine boosts cancer risk the same as half a pack of cigarettes. For men, the cancer-risk equivalent is different: A bottle of wine was deemed the same as having five cigarettes.
The findings were published in the journal BMC Public Health.
Researchers noted that men who didn’t smoke but drank a weekly bottle of wine saw their cancer risk rise by 1 percent. For women, the risk increased 1.4 percent. In actual numbers of cases, researchers concluded that 10 in 1,000 men would develop cancer sometime by drinking that amount of wine.
The expected cancer rate, researchers said, climbs even faster as drinking increases. Consuming three bottles of wine a week raised the cancer risk to 19 out of 1,000 men and 36 out of 1,000 women. That’s the same cancer risk as men smoking eight cigarettes a week and women smoking 23.
Women were more likely to get breast cancer from drinking, while gastrointestinal cancer was more common among men.
The researchers emphasized they aren’t equating moderate alcohol consumption with smoking. Their findings relate to lifetime cancer risks across an entire population, and they noted that individual cancer risks from smoking or heavy drinking vary.
Still, the comparison between drinking and smoking could encourage more modest imbibing — an easy way to think about how much you drink.