A new medical research study has found some surprising links between the use of alcohol and certain changes in the DNA that could lead to cancer. Consuming alcohol leads to a breakdown of this substance in the body. During the breakdown process acetaldehyde is formed, and this substance is very similar to formaldehyde, which is known to cause cancer in human and animals. Past laboratory experiments have shown that acetaldehyde has the ability to damage the DNA, is carcinogenic to animals, and can cause chromosomal abnormalities in cultures of cells to be triggered.
Consuming alcohol puts anyone at risk for increased cancer, but the study also showed that individuals who are Asian descent have a much higher risk of this occurring. Approximately 3 in 10 individuals who are of Asian descent have a gene variation and can not metabolize alcohol the way that the rest of the population does, and this can increase the rate of cancers including esophageal cancer.
Study leader Silvia Balbo, Ph.D., who works as a research assistant at the University of Minnesota, said “We now have the first evidence from living human volunteers that acetaldehyde formed after alcohol consumption damages DNA dramatically, Acetaldehyde attaches to DNA in humans – to the genetic material that makes up genes – in a way that results in the formation of a ‘DNA adduct.’ It’s acetaldehyde that latches onto DNA and interferes with DNA activity in a way linked to an increased risk of cancer. These findings tell us that alcohol, a lifestyle carcinogen, is metabolized into acetaldehyde in the mouth, and acetaldehyde is forming DNA adducts, which are known major players in carcinogenesis.”