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White Wine May Raise Your Risk of Melanoma

Happy couple drinking white wine
December 5, 2016 Reviewed by Holly Dawsey 0 Comments

Say it isn’t so! New research published in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention suggests that there may be a connection between white wine and skin cancer. While alcohol is a known risk factor for a number of cancers, including liver and breast cancer, this study found white wine intake to be directly associated with higher rates of invasive melanoma among adult men and women. Consumption of beer, red wine and liquor did not pose a similar risk.

The study from Brown University analyzed the data of three large studies, which included a total of 210,252 white adults (over 18 years old), to determine a potential link between alcohol intake and melanoma risks. Participants were required to complete food frequency questionnaires, detailing the alcoholic beverages they consumed and how much of each for roughly 18 years. Findings showed that a daily glass of white wine was linked to a 13 percent greater risk of melanoma. While that is considered to be only a “modest increased risk,” according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in NYC, it’s enough for me to reassess my love of chardonnay.

The study’s author Eunyoung Cho, ScD, an associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, says that she and her colleagues were was surprised to find that white wine was the only drink independently associated with increased risk of melanoma. But previous studies have found that some wines have higher pre-existing levels of a chemical called acetaldehyde.  The ethanol in alcohol metabolizes into acetaldehyde, which damages DNA and prevents DNA repair. It is thought that the number antioxidants in red wine may counteract the harmful effects.

It should be noted that only white individuals were studied, and women in this group were more likely to have a family history of melanoma and red or blonde hair, which also raises skin cancer risk. "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. You can expect more research to be conducted before changes are made to the general health recommendations, but in the meantime, continue to drink your favorite whites in moderation. 

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