We have known for long that consumption of alcohol is bad for health. Now, there’s one more reason to stop boozing. According to a new study conducted by a team of scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, alcohol consumption can up the risk of cancer by irreparably harming DNA in stem cells that are responsible for producing new blood.
For the purpose of the study, the researchers gave genetically modified mice, diluted alcohol, known chemically as ethanol. They opted for chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing to examine the genetic damage caused by acetaldehyde, a chemical produced when the body processes alcohol. The researchers found that liquor consumption damages the DNA blueprint within stem cells, which results in healthy stem cells becoming faulty leading to cancer.
“Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells,” said Professor Ketan Patel from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.
Liquor consumption increases risk of seven types of cancer
The new findings give us insight into how drinking liquor increases the risk of developing seven types of cancer including that of the liver, bowel, breast, mouth, throat, larynx or voice box and oesophagus or food pipe.
The researchers also examined how the body fights against alcohol damage using a family of enzymes called ALDH, which turn acetaldehyde into acetate, which cells can use as energy. The team pointed out that millions of people, particularly from Southeast Asia, either lack these enzymes or carry faulty versions. And mice, which lacked ALDH, given alcohol, suffered four times as much DNA damage, as compared to others.
According to Prof. Patel, their study result 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.
The study findings have been published in the journal Nature.