To explore this notion, the research team conducted genetic testing on 173 colon cancer patients, and compared their findings with tests conducted on 788 healthy people.
The result: Those men and women who possessed the ADH1C*1 gene were, in fact, at a genetically higher risk for developing colorectal cancer, although only when consuming more than 30 grams (about two drinks) of alcohol per day.
This translates to about a twofold to threefold increase in the risk for colon cancer for chronic drinkers with this particular genetic marker, Seitz said.
"But I have to state that, even so, the general risk is not tremendous," he noted. "Yes, it's certainly a significantly higher risk for those with the gene [about 20 percent of the general population] than for those without. But it's not an extremely huge risk."
"However, in any case, the message is very simple," added Seitz. "To be on the safe side, if you don't know your genetic background, be moderate in your alcohol consumption. That means you can have two drinks. But then be careful."
Dr. Marc Galanter, director of the division of alcoholism and substance abuse at New York University Langone Medical Center/Bellevue in New York City, noted that the current work serves to highlight another negative consequence of heavy alcohol use.
"Some develop liver disease," he said. "Others develop cardiac disease and, apparently, based on this study, some are more vulnerable to developing colorectal cancer. Research like this will help us understand which people are most vulnerable to the ill consequences of heavy drinking."
There's more on the alcohol-cancer link at the American Cancer Society.
SOURCES: Helmut K. S
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