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First evidence from humans on how alcohol may boost risk of cancer
Date:8/22/2012

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 22, 2012 Almost 30 years after discovery of a link between alcohol consumption and certain forms of cancer, scientists are reporting the first evidence from research on people explaining how the popular beverage may be carcinogenic. The results, which have special implications for hundreds of millions of people of Asian descent, were reported here today at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

Silvia Balbo, Ph.D., who led the study, explained that the human body breaks down, or metabolizes, the alcohol in beer, wine and hard liquor. One of the substances formed in that breakdown is acetaldehyde, a substance with a chemical backbone that resembles formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Scientists also have known from laboratory experiments that acetaldehyde can cause DNA damage, trigger chromosomal abnormalities in cell cultures and act as an animal carcinogen.

"We now have the first evidence from living human volunteers that acetaldehyde formed after alcohol consumption damages DNA dramatically," Balbo said. She is a research associate in the laboratory of Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., a noted authority on cancer prevention at the University of Minnesota. "Acetaldehyde attaches to DNA in humans ― to the genetic material that makes up genes - in a way that results in the formation of a 'DNA adduct.' It's acetaldehyde that latches onto DNA and interferes with DNA activity in a way linked to an increased risk of cancer."

Balbo pointed out that people have a highly effective natural repair mechanism for correcting the damage from DNA adducts. Most people thus are unlikely to develop cancer from social drinking, although alcohol is associated with a risk of other health problems and accidents. In addition, most people have an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which quickly converts acetaldehyde to acetate, a relatively harmless substance.

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Contact: Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
215-418-2056 (Philadelphia Press Center, Aug. 17-23)
202-872-6042

Michael Woods
m_woods@acs.org
215-418-2056 (Philadelphia Press Center, Aug. 17-23)
202-872-6293
American Chemical Society


Source:Eurekalert

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