Wine Might Have the Same Cancer Risks as Smoking
Bad news, wine aficionados. While we’ve been told for years that drinking red wine might be good for our health, it turns out that, as far as cancer risks are concerned, it might not be.
A recent study published in BMC Public Health took a look at a topic not widely understood by the public — cancer and alcohol. While the risks of cancers and smoking are fairly well known, cancers attributed to alcohol consumption are not. In fact, many people likely aren’t even aware that alcohol is linked in any way to certain cancers.
In fact, for alcohol drinkers, the risk of cancer with a bottle of chardonnay or a nice Chianti is equivalent to smoking cigarettes, according to the research. Further, the increased risk varied according to gender. According to the study, a bottle of wine per week increased the cancer risk for non-smokers by 1.0 percent in men and 1.4 percent in women, with that same bottle equaling five cigarettes in men and 10 cigarettes per week for women. For men, the cancers associated were primarily those of the gastrointestinal tract. For women, there was also a 0.8 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer in non-smokers.
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The study was intended to help inform the public of the cancer risks associated with alcohol. In a statement, Dr. Theresa Hydes, the study’s lead author, said, “Our estimation of a cigarette equivalent for alcohol provides a useful measure for communicating possible cancer risks that exploits successful historical messaging on smoking. We hope that by using cigarettes as the comparator we could communicate this message more effectively to help individuals make more informed lifestyle choices.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to go dry and completely cut out your occasional glass of wine. There are a number of other risks associated with smoking and drinking alcohol that weren’t part of this particular study, such as heart disease and respiratory disease. And numerous studies are in the works examining whether the occasional glass of red wine might actually be good for your health. According to the American Heart Association, red wine may increase your HDL — the “good” cholesterol responsible for heart health but stresses that you shouldn’t rely on wine-drinking for any specific health benefits.
“We must be absolutely clear that this study is not saying that drinking alcohol in moderation is in any way equivalent to smoking.” Hydes said.
So, for now, keep enjoying your glass of wine at dinner … maybe?