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Scientists Demonstrate The Link Between Alcohol And Cancer

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Researchers have demonstrated for the first time the connection between alcohol and cancer in humans. At 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, researchers have provided the scientific explanation of the relationship between alcohol and cancer risk. Silvia Balbo, Ph.D., who led the study, explained that researchers now have the first evidence showing how acetaldehyde resulting from alcohol leads to altered cellular DNA in humans.

Alcohol And Dna

Alcohol And Dna

The fact that alcohol is considered a risk factor for cancer is not new. It is a well-known fact that alcohol is a risk factor for cancers of the esophagus, pharynx, larynx, oral cavity, liver, breast or rectum. Alcohol contributes to some extent to the development of various types of cancer and the risk depends on the characteristics of each patient, and on the amount and type of alcohol. For example, it is well-known fact that alcohol is a major risk factor for squamous cell cancer of the esophagus,along  with tobacco use. Alcohol is degraded in the body into acetaldehyde, a compound that is similar to formaldehyde. It is known that formaldehyde is a human carcinogen. Formaldehyde is a chemical that is found in many household products, fuel burning devices in building materials etc.

Previous studies have shown that occupational exposure to formaldehyde is associated with blood and oropharyngeal cancers. Acetaldehyde, a breakdown compound of alcohol, was also associated with cancer. Laboratory studies have shown that acetaldehyde induces cellular DNA abnormalities with the occurrence of chromosomal aberrations. After several studies on cell cultures and laboratory animals, researchers determined that acetaldehyde is an animal carcinogen.

The human body naturally has many defense mechanisms against cancer. For example, there are some enzymes that repair different faults that can occur during the formation genes. These enzymes may be deficient in some people, and so cancer occurs. Sometimes carcinogens are so strong that the body is no longer able to defend itself. Regarding alcohol, there is an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which converts acetaldehyde into a less harmful compound called acetate. Nevertheless, it was observed that 30% of Asians (people of Asian descent) can not properly convert acetaldehyde into acetate. In other words, the risk of cancer is much higher.

Silvia Balbo, who is also a research associate in the laboratory of Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., a noted authority on cancer prevention at the University of Minnesota, said that acetaldehyde interfere with DNA in the process of making up genes. In this way acetaldehyde irreversibly alter genetic material in cells so that increases the risk of cancer.