If you are one of the approximately 30 percent of American women or 14 percent of American men who regularly wear sunscreen when going outdoors, you should be proud of yourself for doing your part to prevent the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays on your skin. But a recent study has revealed that if you’re drinking even one glass of alcohol per day, you could be increasing your risk of developing a form of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma (BCC) by 7 percent and your risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) by 11 percent!
"For every 10 grams of alcohol you consume, you dramatically increase your risk of developing these cancers," says Dr. Ryan Mitchell, a plastic surgeon in Henderson, Nevada.
This is because once consumed, the ethanol contained in alcohol can transform into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which has been proven to damage DNA and prevent it from repairing itself.
"The study shows that for every 10 grams of alcohol you consume daily, you increase your risk by 7 percent or 11 percent, respectively," Mitchell says.
These numbers become even more telling when you consider the data from a recent Washington Post article that claims a full 10 percent of Americans (or about 24 million people) consume 74 alcoholic beverages or more per week.
"That’s more than 10 drinks per day, so that person is increasing his risk of developing BCC by 70 percent and cSCC by 110 percent," Mitchell says. "And we already knew that alcohol increases your risk of oral and throat cancers."
So, what about those studies that have also shown that drinking a glass of red wine a day has medical benefits, too?
"There is anecdotal evidence that the resveratrol in red wine can help reduce inflammation in the body, but there haven’t been enough studies done to confirm this. A much safer option is to take a resveratrol supplement, which contains no alcohol," Mitchell says.
For now, experts including Mitchell recommend limiting your alcohol intake.
"An occasional glass of alcohol is fine, when consumed responsibly," he says. "But for now, it doesn’t seem like the benefits outweigh the risks to justify drinking it more. There are lots of things you can do to reduce inflammation that won’t increase your cancer risk."