The findings of new research suggest that there may be a link between the consumption of white wine and an individual’s risk of developing melanoma, a serious and potentially life threatening form of skin cancer.
In a study published in the December edition of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers indicate that drinking alcohol is linked to an increased incidence of melanoma, but drinking white wine in particular is associated with a higher risk than other types of alcohol.
Researchers from Brown University compiled data from three large studies, focusing on whether alcohol intake was associated with risk of melanoma, using food questionnaires that focused on information on drinking habits, where they live, health history, and details on sunburns and tanning.
The study compiled more than 3.8 million person years of follow-up from the studies, involving 210,000 participants. A total of 1,374 cases of invasive melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, were documented.
The data indicated drinking white wine was associated with increased risk of melanoma compared to red wine, beer and hard liquor. Each drink per day was associated with a 14 percent increased risk of melanoma. Other forms of alcohol did not increase the risk in a statistically significant way, researchers said.
A standard drink was 12.8 grams of pure alcohol or about one glass of beer, wine, or a shot of hard liquor.
Participants who drank 20 grams or more of alcohol per day, about the equivalent of two drinks, were two percent more likely than nondrinkers to be diagnosed with melanomas of the head, neck, arms, and legs. They were 73% more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the torso, or areas often covered by clothing and not associated with sun exposure.
Study authors say the findings indicate another link to the cause of melanoma, other than sun exposure or tanning, which is the most common association for developing skin cancer.
Researchers said drinking, even in moderate amounts, was linked to increased rates of melanoma. About 3.6% of cancer cases worldwide are thought to be caused by alcohol.
Other research has concluded wine contains higher levels of acetaldehyde than beer or hard liquor. Researchers hypothesize the antioxidant content of red wine may offset the risks of this chemical.
In some cases, logically the alcohol came in contact with the body tissues, such as digestive tract. However, in the case of breast cancer, researchers could not find a direct link to explain the connection. The theory is acetaldehyde can damage DNA and prevent DNA repair throughout the body. It is also a well documented carcinogen, which can be the catalyst for cancer in other sites.
Researchers also speculate melanoma may be less related to sun exposure and instead linked to a biological mechanism such as DNA damage, much like these other types of cancer.