You may think that wine is the elixir of life, but the truth is that booze can increase your risk of certain cancers because—???? science lesson????—alcohol creates a carcinogenic byproduct when it's metabolized.
But experts hadn't linked alcohol to skin cancer, in particular, until now. A large new study published in an American Association for Cancer Research journal suggests that daily drinkers have a 14 percent greater risk of melanoma than non-drinkers, with a 73 percent greater risk of skin cancers in areas that aren't typically exposed to the sun if you drink 20 or more grams of alcohol per day (about a standard drink and a half).
The news gets worse if white wine is your go-to. When researchers compared melanoma risk among drinkers based on the kinds of alcohol they consumed most frequently, they found that white wine drinkers had a 13 percent greater risk of melanoma compared to red wine, beer, or liquor drinkers.
The study authors note that compared to other alcoholic drinks, wine naturally tends to contain higher levels of alcohol's carcinogenic byproduct. The antioxidants in red wine could offset related risks, but there are fewer antioxidants in white wine, which could explain why it seems to be the biggest skin cancer culprit.
Researchers don't know why alcohol is linked to greater risk of skin cancers in covered areas, or whether the findings apply to non-white ethnic groups, since the study sample contained too few people of color to draw significant conclusions.
Although more research is clearly needed, the American Cancer Society already recommends limiting alcohol intake to reduce cancer risk, and the study authors say it's smart for anyone at high risk for melanoma (i.e., people with fair skin, those who've had melanoma before, or people with a family history of skin cancer) to think long and hard before hitting the bottle, particularly on a regular basis.
Until experts get a better sense of why white wine and skin cancer appear to go hand-in-hand, you could always opt for red the next time you really need a buzz.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.