The UK's first new guidelines on alcohol in 20 years have warned there is no “safe” level of drinking.

The Chief Medical Officer for England Sally Davies said drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone.

Ms Davies said people should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week to reduce the risk of illnesses such as cancer and liver disease.

The previous recommendation, issued in 1995, was for a maximum of 21 units for men and 14 units for women.

She added that the idea of drinking a glass of red wine a day is good for you is an "old wives' tale". 

Alcohol was considered responsible for 1.2 million hospital admissions in the UK in 2012.

The new advice recommends people have several drink-free days a week and do not consume the 14 weekly units in one session.

"The reason we've done this is that the science had progressed and advice needed updating," Ms Davies added. 

The guidance said pregnant women should avoid alcohol altogether as there is no evidence for a "safe" drinking level.

This is another revision from the previous guidelines which suggested a small amount was safe.

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland welcomed the UK changes and said Irish alcohol guidelines were being reviewed.

"In preparing the previous guidelines in 1995, the harmful effects of alcohol and cancer were underestimated, and the beneficial effect of alcohol (if any) was exaggerated," said Prof Frank Murray, President RCPI and Chair of Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland.

"This is the first review in 20 years and much has changed in terms of what we know about the harm caused by alcohol consumption, particularly with regards to cancer and other illnesses," he added.

"It is interesting to note that this is the first time the recommended low-risk level is the same for both men and women."

The RCPI said three people die every day in Ireland as a result of alcohol.