If you like to drink beer or wine outside on a sunny day, take notice: one study says it might raise your risk for cutaneous melanoma, one of the more dangerous kinds of skin cancer.
There are a couple reasons researchers think alcohol may contribute to worse sunburns, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.
First, people drinking in the sun may forget to put on sunscreen or reapply as much as necessary. And second, boozing sunbathers may stay outside longer than they normally would had they not imbibed.
“From reading the study, it appears researchers concluded that there is a relatively small increased rate of melanoma in people with higher alcohol consumption compared with those not drinking or occasionally drinking,” said Dr. Vlad Ratushny, MD, PhD, a dermatologist at Massachusetts Dermatology Associates and MassDerm Hair Transplant Institute in Beverly, Massachusetts.
The findings are surprising because it could mean drinking in the sun adds an additional risk for burning. It should be noted, however, more research on the topic is needed.
“The results of this study should be interpreted with caution and may all be explained by the confounding factor of sun exposure being more common among those drinking alcohol. In fact, there was no significant difference in the melanoma risk increase from alcohol consumption when the meta-analysis authors only evaluated studies that risk adjusted the results for sun exposure,” Dr. Ratushny said.
Researchers from a different study measured the concentration of carotenoids in the participants’ bodies. Carotenoids are the yellow, orange and red pigments that are produced by plants.
When we consume carotenoids from fruits and vegetables, these pigments exert an antioxidant effect in our bodies and it is thought to help protect against the damage done by the UV light.
In this study, the human male study subjects’ carotenoid levels were lower after drinking alcohol. Researchers speculated a decline in antioxidants may make skin more vulnerable to burning in the sun.
“The sun is a known carcinogen and taking care to protect your skin from UV damage is of utmost importance,” Dr. Ratushny said. “While more research is needed to determine if alcohol can put you at additional risk, we need to remember to take precaution every time we go outside.”
For more information on how to stay safe in the sun, speak with your health care provider.