Heavy Alcohol Use Damages DNA, Increases Risk Of Cancer

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Heavy Alcohol Use Damages DNA, Increases Risk Of Cancer

New research published in the Nature International Journal of Science shows that heavy alcohol use damages DNA, which can increase a person’s likelihood of developing several types of cancers, including bowel and breast cancer.

For the study, researchers at Cambridge examined the effect that a harmful metabolite produced by the body while processing alcohol, acetaldehyde, had on the genetics of mice. Through the use of DNA sequencing and chromosomal analysis, the researchers discovered that this by-product of alcohol causes genetic damage in stem cells, which can then raise the risk of cancer.

The report found that certain people have increased susceptibility regarding the genetic damage that can result from alcohol consumption. Moreover, the body does produce enzymes which can help break down acetaldehyde and reduce prevent damage to DNA. However, some people’s bodies do not produce as much of the enzyme as others.

Scientists engineered a sample of rats whose bodies did not produce the enzyme, and this resulted in the likelihood of cancer quadrupling. Still, the researchers noted that even people who produce ample amounts of this enzyme could still have a higher risk of cancer from consuming alcohol.

According to the American Cancer Society, alcohol consumption has been linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, breast, pancreas, and stomach.

Also, alcohol use in conjunction with tobacco smoking increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box and esophagus more than either smoking or drinking alone.

Of note, because alcohol use is associated with inflammation and scarring of the liver, this is a factor that may increase the risk of liver cancer.

For women, even a few drinks of alcohol per week may raise the risk of breast cancer.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

References

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature25154

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