ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – A new study has found that regular alcohol drinkers have an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

According to the study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, researchers found that drinkers have about a 20 percent increased chance of developing melanoma compared to non-drinkers or light drinkers, MSN reported.

This study included an analysis of 16 studies worldwide which involved more than 6,200 melanoma patients.

People who drank less than one drink a day, with one drink defined as 12.5g of alcohol, were defined as light drinkers.  They had only a 10 percent increased risk of developing skin cancer and for moderate to heavy drinkers the risk rose to 18 percent.

“In Western societies, consumption of alcoholic beverages during outdoor leisure activities such as barbecuing and sunbathing is common,” the researchers said according to MSN. “Other research has shown that people who consumed alcohol during time spent at the beach had more severe sunburns compared to non-drinkers. Moreover, a cross-sectional survey investigating the relation between alcohol drinking and sunburns prevalence found that about 18% of all sunburn cases among American adults were imputable to alcohol drinking.”

Researchers for this study were from the University of Milan-Bicocca, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.  

“We know that in the presence of UV radiation, drinking alcohol can alter the body’s immunocompetence, the ability to produce a normal immune response,” Dr Eva Negri, one of the authors of the study, said to MSN.  “This can lead to far greater cellular damage and subsequently cause skin cancers to form. This study aimed to quantify the extent to which the melanoma risk is increased with alcohol intake, and we hope that armed with this knowledge people can better protect themselves in the sun.”

Researchers for this study noted that previous research had already linked drinking with a higher chance of people getting sunburned, MSN reported.

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