Alcohol Consumption Linked to Higher Cancer Risk

While alcohol is commonly used as a social lubricant, recent studies have linked alcohol consumption to aging and also an increased cancer risk. The organic chemical compound acetaldehyde which is responsible for hangovers also represents an increased risk of cancer, particularly to heavy drinkers. This study was published in the Journal Addiction, and was performed by members of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto and the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Laboratory Karlsruhe in Germany.

These researchers found that those who drank heavily surpassed safe levels of acetaldehyde ingestion through alcohol consumption alone. According to Jurgen Rehm, the lead scientist and Head of the Public Health and Regulatory Policies section at CAMH said that, “The problem with acetaldehyde has been that, although it has been recognized as toxic by Health Canada some years ago, most risk assessments to date were based on one source of exposure only…this has led to a negligence of the overall risk.”


Another study, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research linked alcohol consumption, cancer, and aging that started at the cellular level with telomere shortening.  Telomeres play a significant role in the genetic stability of cells, and are found at the region of the DNA sequence at the end of a chromosome. As people age, telomere length shortens progressively. Because alcohol abuse has been linked to oxidative stress and inflammation which are two mechanisms that accelerate telomere shortening. Since telomere shorting probably increases cancer risk, researchers have speculated that people with shorter telomeres due to alcohol abuse would have an increased cancer risk.  The head researcher of the study, Andrea Baccarelli, M.D., Ph.D said that, "Heavy alcohol users tend to look haggard, and it is commonly thought heavy drinking leads to premature aging and earlier onset of diseases of aging. In particular, heavy alcohol drinking has been associated with cancer at multiple sites.”  


Source:American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)


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