Alcohol consumption is associated with a moderate increase in the risk of developing melanoma, according to the findings of a recent study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a scientific journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
The study, “Alcohol Intake and Risk of Incident Melanoma: A Pooled Analysis of Three Prospective Studies in the United States,” shows that drinking white wine has the strongest association with melanoma development, particularly in the areas of the body that receive less sun exposure.
In recent decades, both the consumption of alcoholic beverages and the incidence of malignant skin cancer have increased. The coexistence of these trends prompted the possibility that they may be related. Investigators have even suggested that drinking alcohol could aggravate sunburn severity by inducing damages in the DNA and preventing the DNA repair mechanism, thereby increasing the risk of melanoma.
To address the correlation between alcohol and melanoma, researchers examined alcohol consumption habits in 210,252 subjects included in three prospective cohort studies. Participants were followed for an average of 18.3 years using food-frequency questionnaires, which allowed researchers to determine their alcohol consumption.
The authors reported that a total of 1,374 participants developed invasive melanoma over the course of the study. Importantly, they found that melanoma development was significantly associated with alcohol intake.
Overall, one drink per day increased the risk of malignant melanoma by 14 percent. Among all alcoholic beverages, the authors found that white wine was associated with the highest risk of melanoma.
This association was found to be strongest in parts of the body that typically receive less sun exposure, such as the trunk, compared to more UV-exposed sites such as the head, neck, or extremities.
Indeed, the authors found that those who reported drinking 20 grams or more of alcohol per day did not have an increased risk for melanoma of the head, neck, or extremities, but were 73 percent more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the trunk.
“The clinical and biological significance of these findings remains to be determined, but for motivated individuals with other strong risk factors for melanoma, counseling regarding alcohol use may be an appropriate risk-reduction strategy to reduce risks of melanoma as well as other cancers,” Eunyoung Cho, senior author of the study and associate professor at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, said in a press release.
According to Cho, these findings add melanoma to the already extensive list of cancers associated with drinking alcohol, which further supports the American Cancer Society Guidelines for Cancer Prevention to limit alcohol intake.
The authors highlighted that this study had some limitations, particularly the exclusion of non-white subjects from the study, and that further studies are needed to better understand alcohol consumption and the link to melanoma, particularly in other racial or ethnic groups.