Your summer tipple may be damaging your skin and not just through dehydration or even forgetting to apply enough sunscreen. Latest research shows that alcohol can actually make you sunburn more quickly, increasing the risk of developing life-threatening skin cancers like melanoma.
Molemap dermatologist Dr Niyati Sharma points to a German study which investigated the impact of alcohol and sun exposure which showed that consumption of liquor increased not just the risk of sunburn developing but also the severity.
"Drinking alcohol and being out in sun makes you sunburn a lot faster and it also dis-regulates your immune system," Sharma told Newstalk ZB this morning, "so it stops you from your natural immune response, which is to protect you from the harmful UV rays.
"Participants in the study each consumed three drinks before being exposed to UV light with the tests showing their skin burned faster," Sharma reveals.
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Sharma says it is likely that the acceleration of sunburn was due to the lower levels of carotenoids the participants had following consumption of alcohol. The depletion of these may have made the skin more prone to the impact of the sun.
"You end up getting more UV damage at a cellular level and hence increases the risk of skin cancer," Sharma said.
Even more alarmingly, it doesn't need to be a summer-day-long bender - just one or two drinks contributes to the damage.
"One standard drink increases your risk of melanoma by about 20 per cent," Sharma told ZB. "If you drink five beers the risk goes up by 55 per cent."
"It's alarming research," says Sharma, particularly as New Zealand is second in the world when it comes to skin cancer diagnosis, with 2700 new cases per year, and roughly one Kiwi a day dies from melanoma.
"There is definitely a scientific reason why those who drink a lot tend to get more skin cancers," Sharma confirms.
The only way for those who like a beer in the sun to protect themselves, according to Sharma, is to cover up and use sunscreen every day, get regular skin checks and to avoid sun exposure while consuming alcohol.