A coalition of influential doctors have defended the health benefits of red wine, as fears grow over alcohol's link to cancer.

The three doctors, including Richard Béliveau, head of cancer prevention and treatment at the University of Quebec and Montreal, said that they wished to defend the notion of drinking wine in moderation.

Their comments come after studies by the University of Oxford and France's National Cancer Institute last month drew a direct link between even a small amount of alcohol consumption and increased cancer risk. 

Writing in France's Le Monde newspaper today (23 March), the doctors said: "Based on existing studies, it seems clear that consumption of alcohol increases the risk of cancer."

"At the same time, there is not sufficient evidence to confirm that moderate consumption of red wine, during a meal and consumed within a mediterranean diet, is associated with an increased risk of cancer."

French winemakers have repeatedly expressed concern in the last year over what they see as unfair treatment by ministers, backed by an increasingly powerful anti-alcohol lobby.

Online drinks advertising in France has been banned for more than 12 months, although is set to be lifted by the country's Senate in the coming weeks.

Julien Pichoff, who helped to set up a new association called Vin & Internet to fight for advertising rights on the web, told just-drinks last year that there was a "climate of prohibition" developing in France.