Drinking a glass of wine or a pint of beer regularly can reduce the risk of some conditions, like dementia or heart disease, but increase the risk of others. An international team of researchers suggest there's a small, but significant, link between drinking alcohol and skin cancer. Their analysis of studies, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, showed people who drink an average of 10 grams of alcohol per day face a 7 percent increased risk of basal cell carcinoma, and an 11 percent greater risk of squamous cell carcinoma — the most common types of non-melanoma skin cancers.

Researchers believe acetaldehyde — a compound in alcohol — can both damage DNA and prevent DNA repair throughout the body. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers acetaldehyde a probable human carcinogen, but human studies are still inadequate in determining the probability of a person developing cancer. Researchers also theorize alcohol suppression of the immune system could play an influential role on a person's skin cancer risk.

Read More: Drinking Alcohol In The Sun May Increase Skin Cancer Risk

The link between alcohol consumption and non-melanoma skin cancer is a cause for concern. However, these cancers are less aggressive than malignant melanoma — a type of skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are highly curable if detected early and treated properly, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Eunyoung Cho, senior author of the study, believes this small, but significant correlation can help people practice better sun safety and monitor their drinking habits.

"This is an important finding given that there are few ways to prevent skin cancer," she said, in a statement.

Cho and her colleagues gathered results from 13 studies, which included over 95,000 of non-melanoma skin cancer — over 91,000 were basal cell carcinoma and 3,299 cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma — to examine alcohol intake and the risk of developing these cancers.

Similar to melanoma, ultraviolet (UV) light is a risk factor for these two common non-melanoma skin cancers, along with diet and alcohol consumption.

After pooling six studies related to basal cell carcinoma, the researchers found for every extra 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day, there was a 7 percent increased risk of this cancer, but the peak risk was only 9 grams of alcohol per day, with little greater risk above this amount. The positive correlation mainly came from three studies, while the other three found no statistically significant link. Meanwhile, only three studies were pooled for squamous cell carcinoma, where a 10 gram increase in alcohol per day was linked to an 11 percent increased risk in this type of cancer, with there being minimal difference between the studies’ results.

The researchers do caution these results should be interpreted with caution. There could be other health, sociodemographic and lifestyle factors that could influence the link between alcohol consumption and developing cancer. Moreover, the increases are very small at only 7 percent and 11 percent. We’re unable to determine what percentage of people actually developed these cancers during follow-up.

Read More: Darker Skin Doesn’t Protect You From Deadly Skin Cancer

The researchers concluded: “Nonetheless, because alcohol drinking is a prevalent and modifiable behaviour, it could serve as an important public health target to reduce the global health burden of [non-melanoma skin cancer]."

It's important to practice sun safety not only in the summer, but year-round to reduce your risk of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends to seek shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day; and examine your skin from head-to-toe every month to check for anything new, or spots that have changed in shape, size, or color, among others. Basal cell carcinomas look like pink bumps, while squamous cell carcinoma resembles a pimple, but doesn’t go away.

Also, limiting drinking out in the sun could help curb your skin cancer risk.

Source: Yen H, Dhana A, Okhovat JP et al. Alcohol intake and risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis. BJD. 2017.

See Also:

DNA Film Acts As Sunscreen, Absorbs UV Light For Skin Cancer Prevention

Can A Drink Prevent Skin Cancer?