Most women are unaware of the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer, British experts say.
Many mistakenly believe that the commonest cause of breast cancer is inherited genetic problems, where as old age, actually obesity, having children late in life or not at all, not breastfeeding and alcohol are more common causes.
AdvertisementAround four million women drink more than the two to three units a day which is the recommended limit and the equivalent of one large 250ml glass of wine.
When compared to women who don't drink alcohol, it is estimated that: those who drink three units a day increase their risk by a fifth, two large glasses increases the risk by a third and nine units a day raise the risk by half.
Dr Sarah Cant, Policy Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "Drinking moderate or high levels of any type of alcoholic drink has many health consequences, including an increased chance of developing breast cancer.
"Although many factors might affect our risk of getting breast cancer, limiting how much we drink is one thing we can do to try to reduce that risk - it's never too late to change your drinking habits."
Public Health Minister, Dawn Primarolo, said: "It's shocking, even for me, to see the potential risks of drinking over recommended guidelines in black and white. One large glass of 12 per cent wine takes a woman to her recommended daily limit in just one drink for regular drinking. Knowing the potential health consequences enables women to make choices that can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer."
Only around 5 per cent of the 45,000 annual cases of breast cancer are due to a strong family history of the disease and 80 per cent of cancers are diagnosed in women over the age of 50 showing age to the biggest risk factor.
Excessive alcohol consumption also increases the risk of developing other diseases such as heart disease, stroke and other forms of cancer.