Christopher-Hall/Shutterstock, Krzysztof Winnik/ShutterstockWe all know how relaxing it is to kick back and relax with a tall glass of wine at the end of a long day. But did you know that this habit could be putting you at risk for one of the deadliest forms of cancer out there?
Alcohol has been associated with many types of cancer in the past. About 3.6 percent of cancer cases worldwide have been determined to be caused by alcohol consumption. This is due to a carcinogen found in alcohol called acetaldehyde, which damages DNA and prevents it from repairing itself.
However, a recent study done by researchers at Brown University published in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found a distinct connection between white wine in particular and melanoma—the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Most people know melanoma to be caused by sun exposure, but surprisingly, this study found that subjects developed melanoma primarily on the trunks of their bodies—a part that is usually covered by clothing and not exposed to the sun.
Dr. Eunyoung Cho, a co-author of this study, believes that the DNA damage aspect of the carcinogen is more related to the kind of disease found in this study. “Based on these findings, I might guess that this type of cancer is less related to sun exposure and more related to a biological mechanism of alcohol damaging DNA or preventing DNA repair,” she said.
There has been very little research done on the link between alcohol and skin cancer in the past, so Dr. Cho and her colleagues set out to assess the situation. They collected data from three past inconclusive studies that involved over 200,000 participants total. All subjects provided health information such as their medical history, environment, and typical drinking habits. After 18 years, researchers followed up with them and found 1,374 people were diagnosed with invasive melanoma. This is less than 1 percent of all participants, but within that 1 percent, researchers found some surprising trends.
Each drink that a participant had per day (i.e. one beer, a glass of wine, a shot of hard liquor, or about 12.8 grams of pure alcohol) was associated with a 14 percent higher risk of contracting melanoma. However, each glass of white wine in particular was associated with an additional 13 percent higher risk of melanoma. Other individual drinks did not produce this kind of trend.
“There are many risk factors for melanoma that you cannot change, like family history, hair color, and susceptibility to sunburn,” Cho said. “But drinking alcohol is something you can change, so it’s actually good to know that alcohol is related to melanoma as well as other cancers.”