By Marygrace Taylor for Prevention
PiÃƒÂ±a coladas and daiquiris may be part of what makes beachside vacations great, but new research shows there might be a reason to think twice before ordering that umbrella drink: Imbibing in the sun could increase your chances for skin cancer.
A new analysis of 16 studies published in the British Journal of Dermatology concludes that downing more than one drink per day is associated with a 20% increased risk for melanoma, the most serious skin cancer type. Previous research has shown that adults who drink while spending time at the beach have higher sunburn rates than nondrinkers. The reason: after having a drink, the body metabolizes alcohol into a compound called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde may cause the skin to be more sensitive to the sun's UV rays, which in turn increases the potential for cell damage that can ultimately lead to cancer.
But the simple fact that people tend to be less vigilant about sun safety while imbibing could play a role, too. "When you're boozing at the beach, you're less likely to be conscientious of applying sunscreen," says Dr. Michael Shapiro, medical director of Vanguard Dermatology in New York City.
If being a total poolside teetotaler isn't likely for you, here's how to stay safe in the sun:
Slather up indoors. Applying sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside doesn't just give your skin ample time to absorb the stuff, but it also ensures you're covered before you indulgeÃ¢â‚¬”so there's no chance of forgetting in case you get buzzed, Shapiro says.
Set a one-drink limit. Consuming one or fewer drinks a day doesn't appear to increase skin cancer risk. Plus, you're more likely to still have enough wits about you to remember to reapply your lotion as needed.
Find a designated reapplier. If just one drink tends to leave you a little loopy, enlist help. "It's almost like having a designated driver. Have someone who isn't drinking remind you when it's time to reapply," Shapiro says. Usually, that's every two hours, or after you've taken a dip.
More from Prevention:
Your Skin Cancer Prevention Guide
A Cure for Sunburn?
Do You Really Need a Base Tan?