Drinking white wine may significantly increase the risk of invasive melanoma, a type of skin cancer, a new study has warned. About 3.6 per cent of cancer cases worldwide have been attributed to alcohol, most typically cancers of 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 its repair. Researchers at Brown University in the US 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.
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 association between alcohol and melanoma was strongest for parts of the body that typically receive less Sun exposure. Eunyoung Cho, associate professor at Brown University said that compared with nondrinkers, those who consumed 20 grams or more of alcohol per day were two per cent more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the head, neck or extremities, but 73 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the trunk. She said this finding was novel and further research would be required to explain the results.
Cho said it was surprising that white wine was the only drink independently associated with increased risk of melanoma. 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.
While red and white wine may have similar amounts of pre-existing acetaldehyde, the antioxidants in red wine may offset the risks, Cho said.