A breast cancer charity in the UK has been criticised by scientists for allowing its name to be used to help to market a wine brand. The Breast Cancer Campaign has accepted a £50,000 sponsorship from BRL Hardy which is featuring the charity's logo on its bottles.

Some in the medical and scientific communities consider it ill-judged for the charity to be associated with the promotion of sales of a product which is a known risk factor in the development of the disease.

"As alcohol intake is linked to increased risk of breast cancer, it is rather like putting an ad for a lung charity on cigarette packets," said Tom Sanders, professor of nutrition and dietetics at King's College London and a government adviser on food and diet. "It is extremely ill-advised of the breast cancer charity to get involved with a wine company, which is, after all, trying to promote the consumption of alcohol. It sends out a confusing message to women about the risks they run."

However, Pamela Goldberg, chief executive of the Breast Cancer Campaign, defended the link-up, saying that the alcohol represented increased risk rather than the causal link between smoking and lung cancer and the charity had taken a pragmatic view when offered the financial backing. "It's not like smoking and lung cancer," she said. "We know that smoking causes disease. This is not a causal link; it's a slight increase in risk. OK, we took a pragmatic view but there is nothing in our relation with Hardy that encourages women to drink."

BRL Hardy defended its backing of the charity. "When we started off the connection with the Breast Cancer Campaign there was no concrete evidence for a link between alcohol and breast cancer," said BRL Hardy's UK trading director, Adrian McKeon.