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A Bottle Of Wine A Week Has The Same Cancer Risk As 10 Cigarettes, So Says Study

A new study claims that drinking a bottle of wine a week has the same lifetime cancer risk for women as smoking 10 cigarettes.

Men are in slightly less danger, with researchers finding that one bottle increases their risk by as much as five cigarettes.

The study conducted by a team from the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Bangor University and the University of Southampton explained that the higher risk for women is tied to their increased risk of alcohol-related breast cancer.

Writing in the journal BMC Public Health, the team used statistics about alcohol and tobacco-related cancers to draw an equivalent between wine consumption and smoking.

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They found that one bottle of wine per week was associated with an increased absolute lifetime cancer risk for non-smokers of 1 percent for males and 1.4 percent for females.

If the quantity of wine is upped to three bottles per week the risk of cancer jumps to 1.9 percent (men) and 3.6 percent (women).

The researchers chose to equate wine with cigarettes for a specific reason.

"It is well established that heavy drinking is linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, gullet, bowel, liver and breast," Dr Theresa Hydes, who worked on the study, said.

"Yet, in contrast to smoking, this is not widely understood by the public."

Dr Hydes explained that by using cigarettes as a comparison the study aims to communicate their message more effectively.

There is a catch, however.

"We must be absolutely clear that this study is not saying that drinking alcohol in moderation is in any way equivalent to smoking. Our findings relate to lifetime risk across the population," she added.

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A spokeswoman from the Alcohol Information Partnership in the UK -- which is funded by the drinks industry -- argued that the conclusions drawn from the study were "both unhelpful and confusing" to the public.

"There are a wide variety of genetic and lifestyle factors that can contribute to an increased risk of cancer and the study itself is clear that drinking in moderation is not equivalent to smoking," they said.

Figures released by the Cancer Council Australia indicate that long-term, chronic drinking is responsible for up to 6,600 cases of cancer -- or up to 5.8 percent of all cancers.

With this in mind, the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends people try to limit their alcohol intake and have no more than two standard drinks a day.

In contrast, tobacco smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia, claiming 15,500 lives a year.

Together, smoking and alcohol have a "synergistic effect" on upper gastrointestinal and aero-digestive cancer risk, meaning the combined effects exceed the risk from either alone according to CCA.

Feature image: Miramax.