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Acetaldehyde in alcohol -- no longer just the chemical that causes a hangover
Date:3/19/2009

New evidence by researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and researchers in Germany shows that drinking alcohol is the greatest risk factor for acetaldehyde-related cancer. Heavy drinkers may be at increased risk due to exposure from multiple sources.

Acetaldehyde is ubiquitous in daily life in Ontario. Widely present in the environment, it is inhaled from the air and tobacco smoke, ingested from alcohol and foods, and produced in the human body during the metabolism of alcoholic beverages. Research indicates that this organic chemical plays a significant role in the development of certain types of cancers (especially of the upper digestive tract), and it is currently classified as possibly carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization. New research from CAMH in Toronto and the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Laboratory Karlsruhe (CVUA) in Germany recently provided the necessary methodology for calculating the risk for the ingestion of alcoholic beverages.

The team found that risk from ingesting acetaldehyde via alcoholic beverages alone may exceed usual safety limits for heavy drinkers. Their risk assessment study found that the average exposure to acetaldehyde from alcoholic beverages resulted in a life-time cancer risk of 7.6/10,000, with higher risk scenarios (e.g. contaminations in unrecorded alcohol) in the range of 1 in 1,000. As such, the life-time cancer risks for acetaldehyde from ingestion of alcoholic beverages greatly exceed the usual limits for cancer risks from the environment.

The research team noted, however, that this risk is compounded by the addition of acetaldehyde exposure from different sources. "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" explained Dr. Jrgen Rehm, the lead scien
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Contact: Michael Torres
michael_torres@camh.net
416-595-6015
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Source:Eurekalert

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