Drinking alcohol may increase the chance of developing nonmelanoma skin cancer, according to a systemic review and dose-response meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Most prior epidemiological studies found no association between alcohol intake and nonmelanoma skin cancer risk. However, this meta-analysis found that alcohol intake may be positively associated with basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CsCC) risk in a dose-dependent manner.

To conduct the meta analysis, the investigators performed a literature search of Embase and PubMed. Studies included in the review were case-control and cohort studies examining alcohol intake and the risk for BCC or cSCC and reported relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs).


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After screening 305 articles, the study investigators selected 13 for the final systematic review, including 2 studies that were added after manual review of references lists. To gather summary RRs and 95% CIs for dose-response meta-analyses, researchers used a random-effects model.

Findings showed that for every 10-gram increase in ethanol intake per day, a positive association was found for both BCC (summary RR of 1.06-1.16) and CsCC (summary RR of 1.11; 95% CI, 1.06-1.16).

“Linear dose-response analysis showed that for every 10-gram increase in ethanol intake per day, risk of BCC increased by 7% and cSCC by 11%,” the researchers wrote. “…[B]ecause alcohol drinking is a prevalent and modifiable behavior, it could serve as an important public health target to reduce the global health burden of NMSC.”

Although the meta-analysis found evidence to support a positive dose-response association between alcohol drinking and BCC and ccSCC risk, the researchers noted that these results should be interpreted with caution “due to potential residual confounding.”

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According to the researchers, strengths of this study are the large numbers of NMSC cases, separate analyses conducted for BCC and cSCC, inclusion of prospective cohort studies, and stratified analyses performed by factors selected a priori that could possibly contribute to heterogeneity across studies.

Reference

Yen H, Dhana A, Okhovat J-P, Qureshi A, Keum N, Cho E. Alcohol intake and risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer: a systematic review and dose-response meta analysis. Br J Dermatol. 2017;177(3):696-707.