Drinking alcohol is associated with higher rates of invasive melanoma and white wine carries the greatest risk
A small glass of white wine a day could increase the risk of skin cancer by 13 per cent, a study suggests.
Drinking alcohol is associated with higher rates of invasive melanoma and white wine carries the greatest risk, according to the research.
Those who drank a glass and a half of wine a day increased the risk of developing melanomas on the torso – a rare site of skin cancer – by up to 73 per cent compared with non-drinkers.
Each year, around 2,500 people die from malignant melanoma in the UK.
While the link between sun exposure and skin cancer is well known, the fresh findings suggest white wine could lead to cancerous lesions in areas of the body which are less exposed to the sun.
Study author Professor Eunyoung Cho, from Brown University in the US, said: ‘It was surprising that white wine was the only drink independently associated with increased risk of melanoma.
‘The reason for the association is unknown. However, research has shown that some wine has somewhat higher levels of pre-existing acetaldehyde than beer or spirits.
‘While red and white wine may have similar amounts of pre-existing acetaldehyde, the antioxidants in red wine may offset the risks.
‘The clinical and biological significance of these findings remains to be determined, but for motivated individuals with other strong risk factors for melanoma, counselling regarding alcohol use may be an appropriate risk-reduction strategy to reduce risks of melanoma as well as other cancers.’
Around 3.6 percent of cancer cases across the world have been attributed to alcohol, including cancers of the liver, pancreas, colon, rectum and breast.
This is because ethanol in alcohol can metabolise into acetaldehyde, a chemical compound that can damage DNA and prevent DNA repair.
The researchers analysed the alcohol consumption of 210,250 participants in the three large cohort studies who were followed for 18 years.
They defined a standard drink as 12.8 g of alcohol.
A unit of alcohol in the UK contains around 8g of alcohol and a medium glass of white (175mls) wine contains around two units.
Each glass of white wine a day was associated with a 13 percent increased risk of the disease.
While the link between sun exposure and skin cancer is well known, new findings suggest white wine could lead to cancerous lesions in areas of the body which are less exposed to the sun (stock photo)
Meanwhile other forms of booze, including red wine, beer and liquor, did not significantly affect melanoma risk because they don’t contain the same amounts of acetaldehyde.
The researchers found the link between alcohol and melanoma was strongest for parts of the body that typically see less of the sun.
Compared to non-drinkers, those who consumed 20 grams of alcohol per day were 73 percent more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the trunk, but just 2 percent more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the head, neck or extremities.
The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, could pave the way for new risk-reduction strategies among those with a family history of the disease.
However, modest alcohol intake has been connected with reduced risk of other medical conditions, such as heart disease.
Professor Cho added: ‘For drinkers, risks and benefits of alcohol consumption have to be considered individually, including the risk related to skin cancer.’