It’s not just exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light which can increase your chances of developing the most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma. Now, new research published in the British Journal of Dermatology, says drinking alcohol regularly could also increase your risk - by up to 55%.
Each year in the UK there are approximately 13,000 new melanoma cases. The chances of being diagnosed with the disease increase with age, however skin cancers are becoming more common in young people.
Exactly how alcohol consumption increases your chances of developing melanoma is not fully established, but the researchers for this latest study say that ethanol (the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks) converts to a chemical compound called acetaldehyde soon after you’ve consumed it. It’s thought acetaldehyde may make skin more sensitive to light, which in turn generates molecules that damage cells in a way that can cause skin cancers.
The study, by researchers from Italy, Sweden, USA, Iran and France, was in the form of a meta-analysis, a type of research that combines results from previous investigations. In this case the results were drawn from 16 studies, for a combined total of 6,251 cases of melanoma.
The study focused on the effect of what the researchers classify as moderate to heavy drinking (more than one drink, or 12.5g of ethanol a day), and found that this increases melanoma risk by 20%.
There has been very little research into the effect of heavy drinking (more than 50g of ethanol a day) and skin cancer. However, it was noted that risk increased in proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed, allowing the researchers to estimate an increased risk of 55% for heavy drinkers.