In a recent study, researchers found alcohol intake was linked to a higher risk of invasive melanoma in white men and women.
The team found white wine carried the strongest association, and the increased risk was greater for parts of the body that receive less sun exposure.
Approximately 3.6% of cancer cases worldwide have been attributed to alcohol, most typically cancers of the aerodigestive tract, liver, pancreas, colon, rectum, and breast.
Previous research found that alcohol can cause carcinogenesis, which damages DNA and prevents DNA repair.
In the study, the team sought to determine whether alcohol drinking increased melanoma risk.
They used data from three large studies, in which 210,252 participants were followed for a mean of 18.3 years, using food-frequency questionnaires to determine their alcohol consumption.
A standard drink was defined as 12.8 grams of alcohol.
The finding showed that overall alcohol intake was associated with a 14% higher risk of melanoma per drink per day.
Each drink per day of white wine was linked to a 13% increased risk of melanoma. Other forms of alcohol–beer, red wine, and liquor–did not strongly affect melanoma risk.
The association between alcohol and melanoma was strongest for parts of the body that typically receive less sun exposure.
Compared with nondrinkers, those who consumed 20 grams or more of alcohol per day were 2% more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the head, neck, or extremities, but 73% more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the trunk.
It was surprising that white wine was the only drink independently linked to an increased risk of melanoma. The reason for the association is unknown.
However, research has shown that some wine has somewhat higher levels of pre-existing acetaldehyde than beer or spirits.
While red and white wine may have similar amounts of pre-existing acetaldehyde, the antioxidants in red wine may offset the risks.
The team says this finding was novel and further research would be required to explain the results.
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The study was reported by American Association for Cancer Research.
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