A new study published by the British Journal of Dermatology has found that regular drinking can increase the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The researchers reviewed 16 studies involving more than 6,200 patients with melanoma.
They found that even one drink a day can raise the chance of getting melanoma by 20%, with the risk rising to 55% for those who consumed at least four drinks a day. One drink was defined as 12.5grams of alcohol, which is the equivalent of a glass of wine or half a pint of strong beer.
Exactly how alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing melanoma is not fully understood. The researchers found that alcohol is turned into a chemical called acetalhyde soon after it is consumed and that may act as a ‘photosensitiser’, making skin more sensitive to sunlight. Researcher Dr Eva Negri said the mix of UV rays and alcohol damaged the body’s immune responses.
However, the study doesn’t confirm whether alcohol is a direct risk factor for melanoma. I believe that alcohol may increase the risk of melanoma because people do not always enjoy it responsibly and it may lead to them spending longer in the sun. Also, after a few drinks it is possible to become careless with sun protection.
It is also worth noting that there is an increased incidence of smokers in drinkers, and it is known that smoking can increase many cancers. Another theory is that some drinkers have relatively poor diets low in natural antioxidants. This lack of fresh fruit and vegetables may also increase cancer risk in general.
It is important to remember that even if the study doesn’t confirm alcohol is a risk factor for melanoma, about 3.6% of all cancers are attributable to alcohol drinking worldwide. Regularly drinking a pint of lager or large glass of wine a day is known to increase the risk of mouth, throat, oesophageal, breast and bowel cancers. Around 3,100 cases of breast cancer each year in the UK are directly linked to alcohol. Heavy drinking can also cause cirrhosis of the liver, which can in turn cause liver cancer.
I urge people to be careful in the sun and apply adequate protection, such as a daily application of my Secret is Out Lifting Cream SPF15, and of course, to drink responsibly.