Alcohol consumption may increase risk of melanoma

Wednesday, 12 January, 2022

Alcohol consumption may increase risk of melanoma

Alcohol and the sun could prove a lethal combination in developing skin cancer, according to Molemap dermatologist Dr Niyati Sharma.

Dr Sharma said while consumption of alcohol can have a negative impact on the amount of sunscreen used and increase the time spent in the sun, recent research paints a more alarming picture. “The research has shown us that while drinking in the sun may cause your skin to burn more easily, alcohol drinkers in general may be more prone to skin cancer,” she said.

Dr Sharma cited a German study which investigated the impact of alcohol and sun exposure, showing that consumption of liquor increased not just the risk of sunburn developing but also the severity. “Participants in the study each consumed three drinks before being exposed to UV light, with the tests showing their skin burned faster,” she revealed.

Dr Sharma said it is likely that the acceleration of sunburn was due to the lower levels of carotenoids the participants had following consumption of alcohol, the depletion of which may have made the skin more prone to the impact of the sun.

“The findings of this study are concerning because they do tell us that alcohol can increase the likelihood of sunburn,” she said. “It is not simply a case of people failing to apply enough sunscreen when they’re drinking; rather, the research shows a direct correlation between the ingestion of alcohol making our skin more vulnerable to the effects of the sun.”

Dr Sharma said several other reports have confirmed a link between alcohol intake and the development of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the two most common types of skin cancer, as well as melanoma. “One of the studies highlighted the risk of BCC increased by 7% and SCC increased by 11% for every standard beer or small glass of wine, or 10 g of distilled spirits, drunk each day,” she said.

“The other study found a 20% increase in melanoma for those who drank liquor compared to those who don’t drink alcohol or drank it on occasion, and an increased risk based on the amount of alcohol intake, with a 55% increase in risk for those who drink 50 g of alcohol (or five beers) per day.”

Along with alcohol consumption, Dr Sharma said tattoos can also prove to be an additional risk for Australians this summer. The latest data shows a quarter (25%) of Australians have a tattoo, which makes it more challenging to identify any potentially dangerous skin lesions. Dr Sharma said those who have a tattoo ‘sleeve’ may also be at increased risk as it is harder for them, their friends or family to immediately identify an area of concern.

“Skin checks are vital in early detection of melanoma or other types of skin cancer,” she said.

Image credit: ©

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