Alcohol and Cancer Risk Fact Sheet

Alcohol can cause several types of cancer. One by one, from breast cancer to the intestine, all of which can be strongly related to abuse of alcohol.

To confirm the causality is a study published in Nature, in which, through complex analyses based on Dna sequencing, scientists from the University of Cambridge have observed for all damages caused by acetaldehyde to show how exposure to alcohol leads to genetic damage permanent.

Acetaldehyde is a metabolite of ethanol, a substance that is formed in the liver after the oxidation of the ethanol and is converted into acetic acid after the action of an enzyme (aldehyde dehydrogenase) that intervenes to protect the organism from the toxicity of the acetaldehyde.

Well, acetaldehyde is even more toxic and can result in an alteration in the reproductive cycle the cell, thereby initiating the formation of a tumor mass (it is not a coincidence that the International Agency for Research on Cancer consider this item a carcinogen type 1). But what is the reason for which the acetaldehyde is able to induce a transformation in the carcinogenic cells of our body?

In practice, in the course of the investigation, the authors of the study have observed the damage of acetaldehyde on blood stem cells, which give rise to all the adult cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, dendritic cells, and lymphocytes. The acetaldehyde would result in the breaking and the so-called “rearrangement” of a portion of Dna within these cells. A real mutation, which then reappears in all later generations of cells.

At this point, there are cases in which the body has a strong system to repair endogenous to “repair” the damage caused to the Dna and the other has a system is not totally efficient (the study also examined how the body need to protect yourself from the damage caused by alcohol and the first line of defense is represented by a family of enzymes (aldehyde dehydrogenase already mentioned), that breaks down the acetaldehyde harmful in acetate, which our cells can use as energy source). From here, the different capacity of individuals to respond to damage caused by the consumption of alcohol.

The study shows, finally, that alcohol can increase the levels of some hormones, such as estrogen, which increases the risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian. As well as the liver consumption of alcohol may lead to cirrhosis, which gives away free to cancer of the liver.

“Our study shows that if the body is not able to process effectively the alcohol, you can get at an even greater risk of damage to the Dna, and then some types of cancer, ” concludes Ketan Patel, a professor in the molecular biology laboratory of the University of Cambridge. But it is important to remember that the Dna may not repair systems that are perfect, for which the alcohol can still cause the cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact”.