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Gene Boosts Drinkers' Colon Cancer Risk
Date:12/19/2008

About a fifth of white Americans carry the mutation, researchers say

FRIDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- About a fifth of white Americans carry a gene mutation that leaves them at higher risk of colon cancer if they become chronic drinkers, a new study finds.

"If people drink alcohol chronically and have a certain genetic background, then they have an increased risk for large intestinal cancer -- colorectal cancer -- if they drink over a certain amount of alcohol every day," explained study co-author Dr. Helmut K. Seitz, a professor of medicine at Heidelberg University in Heidelberg, Germany.

Seitz and his colleagues were expected to publish their findings in the March issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. The study was posted online Dec. 19.

Describing his team's work, Seitz said scientists have long known that chronic drinking ups risks for a wide range of cancers including breast, liver, esophageal and laryngeal malignancies.

In fact, the American Cancer Society already recommends limiting alcohol consumption to no more than one or two drinks per day for women and men, respectively, as a means of reducing overall cancer risk.

The new study focused on colon cancer. The team examined how disease risk might be affected by the varying speeds with which white individuals convert ethanol (alcohol) into a particularly metabolite called acetaldehyde.

This ethanol-to-acetaldehyde conversion process can be particularly rapid among those whites who carry a particular gene variant labeled ADH1C*1, the researchers noted.

"Acetaldehyde is a very toxic compound which changes and damages our DNA," Seitz noted. "And the speed of the change from ethanol to acetaldehyde is different in different individuals. So the idea is that if people have that gene which is responsible for a faster metabolism to acetaldehyde, then more of it would be produced in a shorter perio
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