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Drink moderately: Drinking a bottle of wine is like smoking 10 cigarettes, claims cancer risk study


Drinking wine in moderation is often considered beneficial. However, a new study found that drinking one bottle of wine every week can put people at risk of cancer. Published in the journal BMC Public Health, the study suggested that drinking a bottle of wine weekly is as bad as smoking up to 10 cigarettes – in terms of increasing your risk of cancer.

The study was the first to estimate the “cigarette equivalent” of alcohol in terms of cancer risk. In conducting the study, researchers used national data from the U.K. on the lifetime risk of cancer in the general population and previously published studies on the relationship between alcohol, smoking, and cancer.

Based on the data they have gathered, among nonsmokers, drinking a bottle of wine every week is associated with a one percent increase in lifetime cancer risk for men. For women, it can increase the lifetime cancer risk by 1.4 percent. Drinking a bottle of wine per week is equivalent to smoking five cigarettes each week for men and 10 for women. In men, the risk appears to be linked mainly to cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, while in women, more than 50 percent of the cases appear to be associated with breast cancer. (Related: Drinking Alcohol Raises Breast Cancer Risk as Much as Smoking 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,” lead study author Dr. Theresa Hyde said in a statement.

The researchers hope that by comparing wine consumption with cigarette smoking, they could communicate the cancer risks of alcohol. Cigarettes are known to cause cancer, and discovering that some amount of alcohol is the equivalent of some amount of cigarettes, in terms of cancer risk, is beneficial for the general public.

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They also note that they only considered cancer risk, and not the risks of other health conditions, such as heart disease, liver disease, and respiratory disease. Nonetheless, they believe that their findings emphasized moderate levels of drinking as an important public health issue.

“We hope that by using cigarettes as the comparator we could communicate this message more effectively to help individuals make more informed lifestyle choices,” said Hydes.

How alcohol increases the risk of cancer

The exact way that alcohol raises cancer risk has not been completely understood. However, there might be several ways it can increase risk, depending on the type of cancer. Here are some of them:

  • Damages body tissues – Alcohol can act as an irritant, especially in the mouth and throat. It damages cells. Additionally, bacteria that normally live in the colon and rectum can convert alcohol into large amounts of acetaldehyde, which is a cancer-causing chemical. Alcohol and its byproducts can also damage the liver, causing inflammation and scarring. As cells try to repair the damage, DNA changes that lead to cancer may occur.
  • Affects other harmful chemicals – Alcohol may also help other harmful chemicals to enter the cells lining the upper digestive tract easier. This may be the reason why the combination of smoking and drinking is more likely to cause cancers in the mouth or throat than smoking or drinking alone.
  • Reduces nutrient absorption – Drinking alcohol may also decrease the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, such as folate. Folate is a vitamin needed by the cells to stay healthy. Low levels of nutrients can increase the risk of cancer.
  • Increases estrogen levels – Alcohol can increase the levels of estrogen, which is a hormone needed for the growth and development of breast tissue. Too much estrogen could increase the risk of breast cancer.
  • Contributes to weight gain – Excessive alcohol consumption can promote weight gain, and being overweight or obese can increase the risks of various types of cancer.

Learn more about how alcohol contributes to cancer development at CancerCauses.news.

Sources include:

LiveScience.com

EurekAlert.org

Cancer.org



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