According to the study led by researchers from the University of Milan, just one alcoholic drink a day may increase the risk of cancer, adding light drinking is estimated to be responsible for 34,000 deaths a year worldwide.
Until now, almost all the evidence has come from studies that focused on people drinking moderate or large amounts of alcohol, or binge drinkers, and not those who drink less.
The research based on more than 150,000 men and women shows that light drinking increases the likelihood of cancer of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus and breast.
One drink a day increased the risk of cancer of the oesophagus by almost a third, according to the study being reported in the Annals of Oncology, which analysed data from more than 200 research projects, the 'Independent' reported.
Low alcohol intake increased the risk of oral cavity and pharynx cancer by 17 per cent, and breast cancer in women by 5 per cent.
"Alcohol increases the risk of cancer even at low doses," say the researchers.
"Given the high proportion of light drinkers in the population, and the high prevalence of these tumours, especially of breast cancer, even small increases in cancer risk are of great public health relevance," they said.
Evidence suggests that drinking in moderation may decrease the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and dementia, leading many to believe a glass of wine a day is good for you.
But the damaging effects of drinking are well known.
An estimated 2.2 million deaths a year worldwide are linked to alcohol, according to the report, and 3.6 per cent of all cancers are attributable to drinking alcohol.
The study defined light drinking as up to one drink a day or 12.5 grams or less of ethanol.
Data on 92,000 light drinkers and 60,000 non-drinkers was used to calculate the overall cancer risk.