Summer temperatures meantime for a barbecue, a fridge with fresh beers for the park, or just a glass of wine on a terrace. Or is that not such a good idea? You regularly hear that you burn faster when you drink alcohol in the sun, but is that true?
Worldwide there are even about 2 to 3 million new cases per year. This makes skin cancer one of the most common cancers. An important factor in the development of skin cancer is the sun, and in particular, its ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This radiation damages the cells in our skin and causes mutations in the genetic material.
Our body tries to repair all this, of course, but with a lot of UV exposure, there is sometimes so much damage that it no longer works. In that case, the skin cells die, and our blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow, while immune cells begin to clean up all the ‘mess’ in the skin. Everyone knows the result all too well. Redness, swelling, and inflammation, in short: burnt skin. Eventually, the sunburn will heal, but some damaged cells with mutations can still survive. It is those cells that can eventually cause skin cancer.
The more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to burn?
How sensitive you are to sunburned skin largely depends on your genes. If you have fair skin, light eyes (blue, green, hazel), and light hair color, you are usually a lot more prone to end up as a red lobster. But your behavior also plays a role. For example, if you spend a lot of time outside or if you don’t apply sunscreen, this will, of course, have consequences.
But what if you drink a fresh pint in the sun? Does the risk of sunburn and therefore, skin cancer also increase when you drink alcohol in the sun?
An Israeli scientist analyzed data from nearly 300,000 participants of the 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and concluded that people who drank alcohol were more likely to have sunburned skin.
The greater the amount of alcohol, the greater the chance of sunburned skin. It is estimated that just under 1 in 5 sunburns can be attributed to drinking alcohol. Other scientific studies also confirm this finding. For example, researchers saw that the risk of two types of skin cancer, a basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma, increased by 7 percent and 11 percent for every 10 g of alcohol per day. Scientists also observed more melanomas in individuals who drink more than 20 g of alcohol per day. The more you drink, the greater the chance.
Carelessness and reduced protection
This could be due to the carelessness that increases after a fresh pint or glass of wine. Those who have had a glass of wine often spend longer in the sun. It is also easier not to or simply not re-apply sunscreen to yourself. That’s not the only possible explanation, though.
German scientists recently showed that alcohol makes our body more susceptible to sunburn. After drinking a glass, the amount of UV light needed to burn the skin was significantly lower compared to the subjects who hadn’t had anything to drink. In other words: when you drink alcohol, you burn faster.
Scientists have not yet determined with 100 percent certainty what this is all about. They do suspect that there is a link with lower levels of antioxidants, such as carotenoids, after consuming a drink. These substances protect our bodies from the damage caused by UV light. In addition, the byproducts that arise when our body processes alcohol can disrupt DNA repair, which in turn can lead to more damaged skin cells. Finally, alcohol itself can also cause DNA damage.
Alcohol thus effectively increases the chance of burning your skin and, consequently, the risk of skin cancer. However, the most important factor remains exposure to UV light. So you can certainly still enjoy a nice fresh pint or wines, wines, wines, but pay extra attention that you are well protected against the sun. So a beer and sun cream on that terrace.