The surprising way you may be increasing your cancer risk

According to an analysis of various studies by the British Journal of Dermatology, researchers have found that consuming alcohol may raise your odds of developing non-melanoma skin cancer.

Although melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, non-melanoma skin cancers, like squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma, are much more common. And while non-melanoma skin cancers are less likely to spread, these cancers often require surgery and may leave scars.

Alcohol may increase the risk of these cancers because of a compound that can interfere with your DNA’s repair. Alcohol causes acetaldehyde, which is made when alcohol is being broken down, to be produced in the body. Acetaldehyde has been found to increase your skin’s sensitivity to light and chance for sunburn. Additionally, alcohol can suppress your immune system. Both of these effects can lead to the growth of cancer cells.

Dr. Michael Jude Welsch, a dermatologist with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., recommends limiting your intake of alcohol or avoiding it altogether when you will be out in the sun.

“It can’t hurt to scale back on the drinking when you will be exposed to sunlight for an extended period of time,” he says. “In addition to the chemical effects on our bodies when we drink in the sunlight, alcohol also impairs judgment. This can lead to forgetting to apply sunscreen or unintentionally staying out in the sun for too long.”

Dr. Welsch advises to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays whether you are drinking or not.

“It is best to wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or above daily in order to protect your skin and lower your risk of developing skin cancer. You may also want to wear sun protective clothing, a brimmed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses and limit exposure between 10 am to 3 pm, when the sun is the most intense.”

It is important to be aware of any changes in your skin.

Dr. Welsch advises, “Check your skin once a month for any new spots or if any existing ones have changed in color or size. These are signs that you should visit the doctor immediately to have them checked out. It is important to note that non-melanoma skin cancers tend to look different than melanoma. Basal cell carcinomas tend to look like waxy pinkish bumps that may have broken blood vessels on the surface. Squamous cell carcinoma looks a little different with rough scaly spots. Being aware and able to recognize these signs could be the key to early treatment.”

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