- Alcohol has long been associated with serious health hazards
- Alcohol can cause irreversible genetic damage to stem cells
- Alcohol consumption causes around four percent of cancers in the UK
The study has basically built previous work that had pinpointed a break-down product of alcohol, called acetaldehyde, as a toxin that can damage the DNA within cells. However, these previous studies had relied on extremely high concentrations of acetaldehyde and used cells in a dish rather than tracking its effects within the body.
The recent work showed that acetaldehyde slices through DNA, causing permanent damage, if the effects of the toxin are not neutralized by two natural defense mechanism. The first tier of defense clears away the acetaldehyde and the second repairs the DNA damage.
In the study, mice lacked both natural defenses against alcohol, their ability to produce fresh blood was completely destroyed after being given diluted alcohol for over ten days, the study found. The research now plans to investigate why drinking is associated with certain cancers and not others.
Alcohol consumption causes around four percent of cancers in the UK, or around 12,800 cases each year. Just one pint of beer or a large glass of wine a day significantly increases the risk of mouth, throat, breast and bowel cancers.