Alcohol found to boost cancer risk by damaging stem cell DNA

Man holding mini liquor bottle in one of his jeans pockets

"It is important to understand how the DNA blueprint within stem cells is damaged because when healthy stem cells become faulty, they can give rise to cancer".

"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.

In the study, published recently in the journal Nature, the mice lost their ability to reproduce fresh blood after being given diluted alcohol for 10 days.

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The dangers of drinking alcohol are well-known to most of us, but you might not be aware that alcoholic beverages actually increase your risk of developing cancer. A lot of them happen by pure chance, but it turns out that drinking alcohol might make stem cells feebler.

Working with mice in a laboratory, British scientists used chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing to examine the genetic damage caused by acetaldehyde, a harmful chemical produced when the body processes alcohol. However, it's important to note that the effects of acetaldehyde can be neutralized by two of the body's natural defense mechanisms: the first one fights acetaldehyde and the second one repairs DNA damage.

Health watchdogs have long warned that alcohol consumption contributes to seven types of cancer - of the mouth, throat, larynx or voice box, oesophagus or food pipe, breast, liver and bowel.

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This finding is significant: Malcolm Alison, a professor of stem-cell biologyat Queen Mary University in London, who was not involved in the study, said it is believed that most cancers arise from stem cells. Researchers have explained why alcohol increases the risk of cancer. When they drink, the risky body-produced chemical called acetaldehyde builds up in their bodies.

"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 defence mechanisms are intact", Patel said.

The researchers gave ethanol to mice lacking ALDH2, and discovered that these mice had four times as much damage in their DNA cells when compared with mice that had the enzyme. 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'. But these mechanisms do not always work; some people have mutations that render them ineffective. Studies have shown it doesn't matter which type of alcohol one drinks - wine, beer or liquor.

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