Alcohol Consumption Increases Cancer Risks, Damages DNA

People sitting at a table and drinking wine

It also showed how the body seeks to defend against the damage alcohol can do."Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells".

Scientists have found clues as to why drinking alcohol increase a person's cancer risk, according to a study published last week in the scientific journal Nature.

They found that the chemical gave rise to permanent mutations in the mice's DNA sequences which could lead to various forms of cancers.

Researchers at the United Kingdom -based Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology found that alcohol abuse can cause permanent damage to the DNA in the stem cells in charge of blood production.

Malcolm Alison, Professor of Stem Cell Biology at the Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, added: "Drinkers beware: most of our organs and tissues have stem cells, immortal cells that replenish cells lost through the likes of old age throughout our lives". Then they studied the genetic damage, using chromosomal analysis and DNA sequencing, caused by acetaldehyde, a harmful chemical released when the body processes the alcohol.

The effects of such damage can be neutralized, however, by the body's two-layer defense mechanism.

"While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage", said lead author Ketan Patel of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

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The link between alcohol and certain types of cancer has been known for some time, but exactly how drinking can raise cancer risk has been less clear.

The research team also found that some people are more prone to alcohol-related DNA damage than other people.

Health watchdogs have long warned that alcohol consumption contributes to seven types of cancer - of the mouth, throat, larynx or voice box, oesophagus or food pipe, breast, liver and bowel. The body usually reacts to too much acetaldehyde by trying to break it down into energy.

"I$3 t's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA fix systems are not flawless and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defence mechanisms are intact". They learned that a byproduct of alcohol metabolism dubbed acetaldehyde turns into poison which can dramatically affect the drinker's DNA.

The researchers gave ethanol to mice lacking ALDH2, and discovered that these mice had four times as much damage in their DNA cells when compared with mice that had the enzyme.

The research was funded by Cancer Research UK, Wellcome and the Medical Research Council.

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