Skin cancer cannot only be linked with exposure to UV (ultraviolet) light now, which does increase the chances of developing the most dangerous type of skin cancer, melanoma. However, the latest research published in the British Journal of Dermatology suggested that regular consumption of alcohol could escalate the chances of getting skin cancer by nearly 55 percent. Every year approximately 13,000 new cases of melanoma are reported in UK alone.
The chances of diagnosis of skin cancer rises with increasing age, but now it has been reported in younger people too. Precisely how alcohol use increases the risk of melanoma development could not be fully established, but the researchers for that latest study said that ethanol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks, could convert to acetaldehyde, a chemical compound, soon after its consumption. The acetaldehyde formed might make skin more sensitive to light, which in turn could generate molecules that damaged cells in a way that could lead to skin cancers.
Researchers from France, Iran, the U.S., and Italy, did a study that involved meta-analysis, which is research that combines results from previous investigations. In that case, the results were drawn from 16 studies for a combined total of 6,251 cases of melanoma. The study focused on the effect of what the researchers classified as moderate to heavy drinking (more than 12.5g or one drink of ethanol a day), and found that it could increase melanoma risk by 20 percent. Furthermore, there has been very little research available to link the effect of heavy alcohol consumption (50g or above of ethanol use daily) with skin cancer, but it was noted that risk increased in proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed, allowing the researchers to estimate an increased risk of 55 percent for heavy drinkers.
It has been previously reported that drinking alcohol increased the severity of sunburn, which was one of the major risk factors for melanoma. However, this new study explored the biological changes caused by alcohol, and how these may also increase our cancer risk. Dr Eva Negri, lead author of the study, said in a press release that they knew that in the presence of ultra violet radiation, alcohol consumption could alter the body’s ability to produce a normal immune response, which could lead to far greater cellular damage and eventually result in different forms of skin cancers. That study aimed to qualify the extent to which the melanoma risk was increased with alcohol intake, and they hoped that armed with that knowledge people could better protect themselves against sun damage.
The authors did, however, request to be cautious of the results. President of the British Association of Dermatologists, Professor Chris Bunker, has welcomed the findings. He has responded in media that Brits hadn’t always been known for their moderation when it came to either alcohol or the sun, but that research was an important link as it would provide people with further information to make an informed decision to prevent skin cancer.
By Syeda Kiran Zahra Hussain