All alcohols were included in the study, but researchers were surprised to find an independent link between white wine and higher melanoma risk.
Worldwide, approximately 3.6 percent of cancer cases are linked with alcohol, so a team of researchers at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School decided to investigate how alcohol intake influences the chance of developing invasive melanoma — the most serious type of skin cancer.
Using data from three large cohort studies, the researchers analyzed questionnaire data from 210,252 participants who were followed for an average of 18.3 years.
The results showed that overall alcohol intake was associated with a higher risk of melanoma: a 14 percent increased risk, per drink, per day.
Interestingly, the researchers were surprised to find that white wine was independently linked with a higher risk of melanoma. Other forms of alcohol, like red wine, beer, and liquor, didn’t significantly affect melanoma risk on their own, but each drink of white wine per day was linked with a 13 percent higher risk of melanoma.
According to study author Eunyoung Cho, an associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology, the reason for this link between white wine and skin cancer remains unknown.
However, previous research has implicated higher levels of pre-existing acetaldehyde (cancer-causing compound) in wine than other beer or spirits. Both red and white wine have similar levels of acetaldehyde, but Cho says that the antioxidants in red wine might offset the risks.
An important limitation to note is that the study data only included white people. Since there were too few non-white participants to draw statistically valid conclusions, the study findings cannot be generalized for other races or ethnicities.
"The clinical and biological significance of these findings remains to be determined,” Cho said in a press release, “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.”