Recent studies link regular alcohol consumption to a higher risk of developing melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. The alcohol-and-sun combination not only makes cells more sensitive to light, but it also inhibits the cells’ natural immune response.
Researchers from the British Associate of Dermatologists discovered an increase in the melanoma risk by 20% in moderate to heavy drinkers. Moderate to heavy drinking is classified as having more than one drink per day and heavy drinking starts at four drinks per day. The more you drink the higher the risk. Researchers estimate an increased risk of 55% for heavy drinkers.
The study explains that ethanol is converted to a chemical compound called acetaldehyde, once ingested. The authors of the study theorize that this compound may act as a photosensitizer (making skin more sensitive to light). Drinking alcohol can also alter the body’s ability to produce a normal immune response in the presence of UV radiation, leading to far greater cellular damage and a higher probability that skin cancers will form.
The study also mentions how alcohol can impair a person’s judgment, leading them to skip on the SPF or spend longer in the sun. The emphasis of the study, however, is on the biological changes rather than the behavioral factors that contribute to the higher risk of sun damage.
Dr. Eva Negri, one of the authors of the study, said: “This study aimed to quantify the extent to which the melanoma risk is increased with alcohol intake, and we hope, that armed with this knowledge, people can better protect themselves in the sun.”
Worldwide, alcohol use is one of the most significant, and potentially avoidable, risk factors for cancer. About 3.6% of all cancers (5.2% in men, 1.7% in women) are attributed to alcohol consumption. Alcohol is linked to seven different types of cancer according to Cancer Research UK.
These findings serve as a stark reminder of the broader, less prevalent negative effects of regular alcohol consumption.
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