Daily glass of white wine associated with increased skin cancer risk

Sipping vino has been linked to everything from a reduced risk of heart disease to more weight loss success. But a new study suggests one health outcome may depend on your preferred variety of the beverage.

The study, published in the December issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, drew a link between an increased risk of melanoma among people who drank any alcohol, but they observed the clearest association of those two factors among daily white wine drinkers.

Researchers at Brown University drew data from three prospective cohort studies involving 210,252 participants who were followed for a mean of 18.3 years, according to a news release. The studies involved food frequency questionnaires that determined how much alcohol the subjects drank. They defined a standard drink as 12.8 grams of alcohol.

Overall alcohol intake was linked with a 14 percent increased risk of melanoma per drink per day, researchers observed. However, beer, red wine and liquor did not significantly affect melanoma risk, while a daily glass of white wine was linked with a 13 percent increased risk of melanoma.

While researchers noted further studies would be needed to explain the results, they found the strongest link between alcohol consumption and a greater risk of melanoma in parts of the body that usually are exposed to less sun. Those parts include melanoma diagnosed from the shoulders to the hip— an area researchers linked with a 73 percent increased risk of the skin cancer in the alcohol drinkers, according to the release. Those who consumed 20 grams or more of alcohol per day were 2 percent more likely to be diagnosed with melanomas of the head, neck or extremities.

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Lead study author Eunyoung Cho, an associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Brown University, speculated in the release that white wine has higher levels of pre-existing acetaldehyde than beer or spirits, and that although red wine also has high levels of the byproduct, the antioxidants in the red variety may offset the risks.

"The clinical and biological significance of these findings remains to be determined, but for motivated individuals with other strong risk factors for melanoma, counseling regarding alcohol use may be an appropriate risk-reduction strategy to reduce risks of melanoma as well as other cancers," Cho said in the release.