Drinking too much can cause cancer, damaging cellular DNA, study finds

An animal study published in the journal Nature revealed how excessive alcohol intake might lead to the subsequent onset of cancer. A team of researchers at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge gave mice models ethanol to examine the effects of alcohol on the animals.

The experts then analyzed the animals’ DNA structure and observed that alcohol exposure resulted in DNA damage within blood stem cells. This damage permanently changed the sequences within cells, the researchers explained. The scientists added that the chemical induced breaks in both strands of the DNA double helix, which lead the structure to become jumbled up.

“Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells. While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage. 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. But it’s important to remember alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways – even in people whose defence mechanisms are intact,” lead author Professor Ketan Patel told Daily Mail online.

Excessive alcohol intake linked to seven various cancers

The research was only the most recent one in a slew of studies that connect high alcohol intake to cancer onset. In fact, a 2016 study published in the journal Addiction showed that high alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing up to seven types of cancers.

“There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others. Even without complete knowledge of biological mechanisms [of how alcohol causes cancer], the epidemiological evidence can support the judgment that alcohol causes cancer of the oropharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast. The highest risks are associated with the heaviest drinking but a considerable burden is experienced by drinkers with low to moderate consumption, due to the distribution of drinking in the population,” researcher Jennie Connor said a TheGuardian.com article.

The findings underscore the need for conducting more education campaigns to educate the public about the dangerous connection between alcohol intake and cancer, the researchers said. The experts added that the results also stress the importance of alcohol-free days for regular drinkers and the addition of warning labels on alcoholic products.

Study: High alcohol levels compromise women’s health

Another study published in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention revealed that excessive alcohol consumption might increase the risk of developing breast cancer among African American women. A team of researchers pooled data from the African American Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk consortium and examined more than 22,000 women as part of the study. The scientists took into account all breast cancer sub-types in examining patient data.

The health experts observed that consuming seven or more alcoholic drinks per week may increase the odds of developing breast cancer across all sub-types. The scientists also found that participants who previously drank alcohol but eventually stopped were less likely to develop the disease than those who had recent alcohol intake. The results suggest that women may reduce the risk of breast cancer by cutting back on alcohol intake, the researchers said. (Related: High alcohol consumption linked to an increased risk for breast cancer among African American women.)

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