It goes without saying that if you spend the day in the sun drinking beers with your buddies, you're probably going to wind up with a sunburn, or at the very least some interesting tan lines. But new research shows that drinking beer might actually up your chances of developing skin cancer, making that day of sun exposure even more detrimental to your health.
Researchers looked at 16 different studies evaluating thousands of patients. They found that participants who consumed at least one alcoholic drink per day were 20 percent more likely to have skin cancer than those who did not drink, or drank less frequently. What's more, the skin cancer risk increased proportionally with the amount of alcohol consumed. Study participants who drank about 50 grams of ethanol daily (roughly the amount found in a few strong beers) were up to 55 percent more likely to develop melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — when compared with those who drank less frequently or not at all.
When alcohol gets into the body, the ethanol in the beverage is converted to acetaldehyde, a compound that researchers think might make the skin more vulnerable to the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. But they also contend that other factors may be at work here. It's entirely possible that the more a person drinks, the less conscious they are about how much time they have spent in the sun. In addition, drinkers may simply be more likely to forgo protective clothing or sunscreen while out in the sun.
Dr. Eva Negri, a professor at the University of Milan and one of the study's lead authors, said: "We know that in the presence of UV radiation, drinking alcohol can alter the body's immunocompetence, the ability to produce a normal immune response. This can lead to far greater cellular damage and subsequently cause skin cancers to form. This study aimed to quantify the extent to which the melanoma risk is increased with alcohol intake, and we hope that armed with this knowledge, people can better protect themselves in the sun."
The study was recently published in the British Journal of Dermatology.