Drinking alcohol can cause cancer by damaging DNA, finds study

Uncovering How Alcohol-derived Metabolites Damage the Genome of Stem Cells

Drinking alcohol can cause cancer by damaging DNA, finds study

Now researchers have found for the first time "a simple plausible explanation" of why alcohol can causes our cells to go haywire - by causing damage to our DNA. For example, by showing how alcohol consumption can lead to rearranged chromosomes and permanently altered DNA sequences within blood stem cells, the MRC scientists uncovered mechanisms that could be relevant in other kinds of stem cells, including stem cells in tissues where cancer is known to raise the risk of cancer.

A team at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, gave diluted alcohol - chemically known as ethanol - to mice.

The team found that people with this mutation are at an increased risk of oesophageal cancer.

The breakthrough is claimed to explain how seven types of tumours form, including those of the mouth and throat, liver, colon, bowel and breast. It also showed how the body seeks to defend against the damage alcohol can do. Acetaldehyde could fabricate a long lasting change and is thought to efficiently cause mutations at the helm for cancer.

In the study, scientists from the United Kingdom found that alcohol damages DNA in blood-forming stem cells, a major culprit of cancer in alcoholics.

But the new research highlights how acetaldehyde slices through DNA and causes permanent damage, if the effects of the toxin are not neutralised by two natural defence mechanisms. But in this study, researchers have used mice to show how alcohol exposure leads to permanent genetic damage.

This substance was found to be able to break down and distort DNA molecules within the blood stem cells. It was demonstrated by administering alcohol to mice.

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Normally, the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) quickly oxidizes acetaldehyde into acetate, which cells use as a source of energy. Although some lesions happen by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of such harm, "Patel said".

Scientists scrutinized at the influence aldehyde had on mice with and without these complicated ALDH enzymes and discovered that those who didn't have them agonized from four times as much damage to their DNA. Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA fix systems are not ideal and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact".

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers", said Patel.

"We know that alcohol contributes to over 12,000 cancer cases in the United Kingdom each year, so it's a good idea to think about cutting down on the amount you drink", she said.

Worldwide, millions of people, particularly those from Southeast Asia, either lack these enzymes or carry faulty versions of them.

Recent figures estimate that 21,000 cases of cancer in the United Kingdom could be avoided if nobody drank alcohol.

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