Ask your Doctors: Is there a Link between Wine and Melanoma Risk?
It is possible for alcohol to metabolize into the chemical Acetaldehyde. These can result in DNA mutations which could lead to cancer. Alcohol has been linked to an increase in the risk of developing cancers in the pancreas, breast , colon and liver.
A 2014 analysis of many different studies published in the British Journal of Dermatology found an 18 percent increase in melanoma among people who drank more than one alcoholic beverage per day, regardless of the type. This analysis was based on retrospective studies, which are studies assessing people's past habits after a diagnosis has been made.
Prospective studies follow patients prior to the diagnosis of disease. The research to which you're referring was that type of study, and was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. For their analysis, researchers looked at data on disease outcomes from three studies of health care professionals and tied those outcomes to potential risk factors. The three studies combined followed a total of more than 210,000 people over a period of more than 18 years. In the studies, participants were asked to state their level of alcohol consumption and to also state what type of alcohol they consumed.
The researchers found that 1,374 people were eventually diagnosed with melanoma (a little more than one percent). The rate of melanoma increased by 14 percent for people who drink alcohol. It rose to 21 percent for those who had at least one drink daily. Notably, people who had a higher intake of alcohol reported higher rates for smoking and caffeine intake. These adjustments were made by the authors so that the data remains relevant.
Alcohol appears to increase the likelihood of developing melanoma.
Some types, particularly white wines, have higher levels of acetaldehyde which could make them more susceptible to cancer than others. But when the authors looked at the type of alcohol consumed, the results between the three studies varied tremendously.
Consider that in one study, of male health care professionals, the researchers found a greater rate of melanoma among men who drank white wine one to three times per month compared to those who drank white wine two to four times per week. The authors found that white wine consumption was associated with a 13% higher rate of melanoma. The rate did not increase with any other type of drink.
The current study has two potential problems, however. There are two potential problems with the current study. The first is that it did not distinguish whether white wine drinkers also consumed other types of alcohol. This is also a problem, as white wine can be drunk chilled, so people who consume white wine are more likely to be in sunny places, thus getting more sunlight exposure.
These melanomas were found to be most likely to be due to alcohol intake. The majority occurred in the back, stomach and chest areas. If melanomas could have been linked to sunlight exposure instead of wine intake, cancers might be more prevalent on areas that are exposed such as the face and arms.
Consuming alcohol may slightly raise the risk of melanomas. While this study on the impact of white wine does not appear convincing, white wine drinkers should consider the fact that acetaldehyde is carcinogenic and white wine has more acetaldehyde.
For myself, this is what I will think about the next time that I sip pinot grigio during a scorching summer day.