Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, causing 8,790 deaths in the United States every year as estimated by the Skin Cancer Foundation. It may not be the most common type of skin cancer, but it causes the most deaths, and is preventable if detected early. Exposure to UV rays, whether from the sun or a tanning bed is the primary cause of melanoma, however there  are some other factors to be aware of.

A study of 6,200 patients with melanoma showed that moderate alcohol used increased the risk of melanoma by 20 percent. Researchers from Italy, France, Sweden, Iran and the United States conducted the study. Moderate to heavy alcohol use is defined as consuming more than 12.5 grams of ethanol per day.

Not much research has been done on the effects of heavy drinking, defined as 50 grams of ethanol per day, but  researchers found that the more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk. They have estimated that risks of melanoma increased to 55 percent with regular heavy drinking. The authors of the study explain that alcohol use also affects the severity of sunburn as drinking affects human behavior, leading to staying exposed to the sun too long or forgetting to use a sufficient amount of sunscreen.

The results were were published in the British Journal of Dermatology. More research on the link between alcohol use and risks of melanoma need to be done, especially on heavy drinking of which the data is inconclusive.

“This study is just one of the ways alcohol can damage your body. ” says Dr. Dale Isaacson, and understanding the risks and preventative measures is very important. He suggests limiting time in the sun this summer, and using lots of sunscreen while outside, taking note of the SPF value of your choice  and how often you should reapply for the product to effectively protect you. Dr. Isaacson also adds that you should always be aware of what your limits are when it comes to alcohol consumption.