A new study says drinking a bottle of wine a week carries the same cancer risk for men as smoking five cigarettes a week.
For the women the picture is worse, with the study saying it is the same as smoking 10 cigarettes.
The study, called 'A comparison of gender-linked population cancer risks between alcohol and tobacco: How many cigarettes are there in a bottle of wine?' was published on March 28 by BMC Public Health.
It is the first study to equate the cancer risk of alcohol with smoking.
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It said in non-smoking men the absolute lifetime risk from drinking a bottle of wine per week was a 1 per cent increase. For women it was a 1.4 per cent increase.
The risk was much higher for both men and women who drink three bottles of wine per week - more than double the recommended amount.
The study found 19 out of 1000 men and 36 out of 1000 women would eventually develop cancer if they drank three bottles of wine.
The study used wine as an example but a bottle is roughly 10 units and can be translated to any alcoholic drink.
Dr Theresa Hydes, one of the study's authors, told the Daily Mail: "It is well established that heavy drinking is linked to cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, gullet, bowel, liver and breast. Yet, in contrast to smoking, this is not widely understood by the public.
"We hope by using cigarettes as the comparator we could communicate this message more effectively to help individuals make more informed lifestyle choices."
The study pointed out it was not saying drinking alcohol carried the same risks as smoking, which has a raft serious health consequences attached to it.
It looked at cancer in isolation and sought to put some context to drinking that was more recognisable to the public.
"This study offers the first attempt to use well established and well communicated links between cancer and tobacco as a mechanism to explain similar links between alcohol and cancer which have to date failed to reach most of the public," the study reported.