Publication date: May 22, 2019
While head and neck cancers, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer have the clearest associations with alcohol consumption, a new study suggests that melanoma could join the ranks.
Dr. Singh and Irene Orlow, DSc-a scientist who leads the Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory at MSK-explain more about the relationship between alcohol and cancer and to put the findings from this particular study into context.
Dr. Singh points out 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.
These individuals – who are at higher risk of developing melanoma regardless of alcohol consumption – should have their skin screened regularly and should practice safe sun behavior, Dr. Singh says.
The authors argued that the effect of alcohol consumption on the risk of developing melanoma may be independent from sun exposure.
He points out that though the study showed a greater association of alcohol consumption and melanoma risk in women, the risk of melanoma on an area of the body that typically receives less sun exposure – the trunk – was more strongly seen in men.
Research has shown that alcohol consumption is related to other cancers beyond those of the head and neck and a much larger study from October 2018 suggests that drinking alcohol may be moderately associated with increased melanoma risk.
“Although these findings and the role of different types of alcohol sources need to be confirmed, the case for a potential increase in the risk of melanoma among those who consume alcohol is getting stronger,” Dr. Orlow says.
“Alcohol consumption has been associated with the development of many different types of cancers – and several other medical issues – and it is probably best to consume it in moderation,” Dr. Singh reiterates.
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