Winding down with a couple of glasses of wine by the pool on holiday may seem completely harmless.
But new research suggests that alcohol may stop the skin battling harmful UV rays from the sun, and could even lead to the most deadly form of skin cancer.
Drinking more than a pint of beer or glass of wine a day raises the risk of developing melanoma by 20 per cent, studies suggest. And for those who drink more than four glasses a day, the risk jumped to 55 per cent.
Alcohol was already known to exacerbate sunburn, but it is believed that drinking may increase the skin’s sensitivity to light, generating molecules which damage cells and can cause cancer.
Researchers also warned that drinking can impair judgment and lead to people spending longer in the sun or foregoing sun protection.
Now a team of international researchers from Sweden and Italy suggest a chemical found in alcohol — acetaldehyde— may increase a drinker’s risk of skin cancer. Ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde as soon as it is ingested and, therefore, may increase the skin's sensitivity to light, damaging cells. The study — based on a review of 16 other studies involving more than 6,200 patients with melanoma — sought to investigate the extent to which melanoma risk increased with alcohol intake.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there are approximately 120,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed and over 8,700 deaths in the U.S. each year. This form of skin cancer is known to be the deadliest. Tumors start to develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells produce mutations that can lead the skin cells to quickly multiple and form malignant tumors. Cumulative exposure to both UVA and UVB rays can induce melanoma and other skin cancers. Everyone is at risk for melanoma, but genetic factors like family history, and lifestyle factors, such as high alcohol consumption, will determine whether someone has a higher susceptibility.