Monday, September 3, 2012
Cancer Risk and Alcohol
Almost a third of a century after discovery of a link between alcohol consumption and certain types of cancer, scientists have reported the first human research evidence of how the popular beverage may be carcinogenic. As the human body metabolizes alcohol in beer, wine, and hard liquor, acetaldehyde is produced. Acetaldehyde attaches to DNA in humans in a way that results in the formation of a ‘DNA adduct’ that is linked to an increased risk of cancer. Most people have an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which quickly converts acetaldehyde to acetate, a relatively harmless substance. About thirty percent of people of Asian descent, however, (almost 1.6 billion people) have a variant of the alcohol dehydrogenase gene and are unable to metabolize alcohol to acetate. That genetic variant results in an elevated risk of esophageal cancer from alcohol drinking. Native Americans and native Alaskans have a deficiency in the production of that same enzyme. Study results were reported at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.