Alcohol intake, especially white wine, may increase risk of invasive melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer, new research has found.
Examining the link between alcohol consumption and melanoma risk, the researchers found that white wine carried the most significant association, and the increased risk was greater for parts of the body that receive less sun exposure.
“It was surprising that white wine was the only drink independently associated with increased risk of melanoma,” said study author Eunyoung Cho, Associate Professor at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, US.
Approximately 3.6 percent of cancer cases worldwide have been attributed to alcohol, most typically cancers of the aerodigestive tract, liver, pancreas, colon, rectum, and breast.
Previous research has suggested that alcohol can cause carcinogenesis as the ethanol in alcohol metabolises into acetaldehyde, which damages DNA and prevents DNA repair.
“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,” Cho said.
“While red and white wine may have similar amounts of pre-existing acetaldehyde, the antioxidants in red wine may offset the risks,” Cho noted.
For the study, the researchers used data from three large prospective cohort 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 study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that overall alcohol intake was associated with a 14 per cent higher risk of melanoma per drink per day.
Each drink per day of white wine was associated with a 13 per cent increased risk of melanoma.
Other forms of alcohol — beer, red wine, and liquor — did not significantly affect melanoma risk, the study said.