Can Alcohol Increase Risk for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer?

Squamous cell carcinoma on the knuckle.
Squamous cell carcinoma on the knuckle.
The risk for development of BCC and cSCC may be increased by alcohol intake.

Alcohol intake may increase one’s risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) in a dose-dependent manner, according to an article published in the British Journal of Dematology.1

Non-melanoma skin malignancies are the most common cancer types in the US. While ultraviolet radiation is directly linked to BCC and cSCC risk, the relationship between alcohol and these cancers is indeterminate.

For this meta-analysis, researchers reviewed findings from 13 case-control/cohort studies, which comprised 91,942 BCC cases and 3299 sCC cases, to determine any link between alcohol intake and non-melanoma skin cancer incidence.

The summary relative risk of developing BCC increased by 1.07 (95% CI, 1.04-1.09) for each 10-gram increase of alcohol intake per day; for cSCC the summary relative risk was 1.11 (95% CI, 1.06-1.16).

The authors noted, however, that while the association between BCC and alcohol intake may not be linear, data are inconclusive among individuals with high alcohol intake.

One factor that may contribute to the association between alcohol intake and non-melanoma skin cancer is the prevalence of behaviors leading to sunburn among drinkers.

The authors concluded that “[given] the high prevalence of skin cancer and alcohol drinking, modifying alcohol behaviour may be a realistic intervention goal that can help substantially reduce the global [non-melanoma skin cancer] burden.”


  1. Yen H, Dhana A, Okhovat JP, 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 Jul 26. doi: 10.1111/bjd.15647 [Epub ahead of print]

This article originally appeared on Cancer Therapy Advisor