Going teetotal is the only way to avoid risking health problems with alcohol, scientists have claimed.
A major global study has concluded there is no safe limit to alcohol consumption.
Previous research suggested that moderate levels of alcohol – around one drink a day for women and two for men – may protect against heart disease.
But the authors of the new study insist that any benefits from drinking alcohol are outweighed by the harms. They estimate that consuming just one drink per day increases the risk of developing one of 23 alcohol-related health problems by 0.5%, compared with not drinking at all.
US lead researcher Dr Max Griswold, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said: “Previous studies have found a protective effect of alcohol on some conditions, but we found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increase with any amount of alcohol.
“In particular, the strong association between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer, injuries, and infectious diseases offset the protective effects for ischaemic heart disease in women in our study.
“Although the health risks associated with alcohol start off being small with one drink a day, they then rise rapidly as people drink more.”
Each year, 2.2% of women and 6.8% of men die from alcohol-related health problems including cancer, tuberculosis and liver disease.
In a separate study, it was suggested teenagers who drink a lot of alcohol dramatically increase their risk of deadly prostate cancer later in life.
A University of Washington study found that 15 to 19-year-olds who consumed at least seven drinks per week tripled their chances of being diagnosed with “high grade” aggressive prostate cancer.
The study added that, over the course of a lifetime, men who drank the most alcohol were three times more likely to be diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer.
Lead scientist Dr Emma Allott, from the University of North Carolina, in the US, said: “The prostate is an organ that grows rapidly during puberty, so it’s potentially more susceptible to carcinogenic exposure during the adolescent years."