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Drinking Alcohol Could Permanently Damage Stem Cells

Drinking Alcohol Could Permanently Damage Stem Cells

And that’s not great for lowering your cancer risk

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The more alcohol, the worse the symptoms.

If you ask some scientists, moderate drinking might not pose any real risk. But in November of 2017, doctors released a warning that alcohol could contribute to an increased risk of dozens of cancers. The precise reason behind this cancer correlation is still unknown — but a new study conducted at Cambridge University shed some light on what might link alcohol to cancer. The results suggest that alcohol could cause irreversible damage to the body’s reserve of stem cells, which are responsible for creating new tissues, and that it therefore might result in cancerous mutations.

How exactly alcohol causes damage to us is controversial,” Ketan Patel, co-author of the study, told The Guardian. “This paper provides very strong evidence that an alcohol metabolite causes DNA damage [including] to the all-important stem cells that go on to make tissues.”

Acetaldehyde is a byproduct of the breakdown of alcohol. The study investigated the toxin’s effects in the body and found it sliced through DNA used to replicate cells. There are defense mechanisms against this degenerative effect, though if these blocks against DNA damage malfunction or are missing, the impact on cells can be caustic.

The mice involved in the study were genetically modified to lack these defense mechanisms. Over time, the damage accumulated to such an extent that some cells stopped working entirely.

The researchers chose to focus on stem cells found in the blood, since they are continually used to replenish blood cells throughout a person’s (or a mouse’s) lifespan. However, they believe the results could be generalized to all types of cells.

While the link requires further research to confirm, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on your drinking for the sake of your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends limiting moderate drinking to one to two standard drinks per day. What exactly constitutes a “standard drink” varies, though — here is what constitutes a standard drink in 11 countries around the world.


Study reveals how alcohol permanently damages DNA and raises risk of cancer

For several decades we have known that alcohol consumption increases a person's risk of developing several types of cancer, but how this actually occurs has never been completely understood. Now a team at Cambridge University has for the first time clearly demonstrated and described how alcohol permanently damages DNA in stem cells which subsequently increases cancer risks.

Scientists have long hypothesized that acetaldehyde, created when our liver breaks down alcohol, is responsible for some of the carcinogenic risk factors of drinking. We know acetaldehyde is toxic, and in cell culture studies it has been shown to cause cancer.

In this new study a team of scientists administered alcohol, or more specifically ethanol, to mice and then observed the effects through chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing. The team found that acetaldehyde clearly, and permanently, damages the DNA in blood stem cells. This discovery potentially explains how alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers.

"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," says Ketan Patel, lead author of the study. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage."

The scientists further investigated how the body manages this influx of acetaldehyde. It is known that acetaldehyde is broken down in the body by a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). Many people around the world carry defective ALDH enzymes, meaning they cannot effectively clear the body of acetaldehyde after drinking alcohol. As well as explaining why some people feel inordinately unwell after drinking alcohol, this build-up of acetaldehyde can result in greater DNA damage.

When mice deprived of ALDH enzymes were administered alcohol in the study, the researchers identified four times the DNA damage in cells compared to the fully-functioning mice. Translating these results to humans means that, for some people, drinking alcohol could be exponentially more dangerous depending on their individual ability to process acetaldehyde.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," explains Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact."

This study is the clearest understanding we have attained to date explaining the mechanism behind alcohol and cancer. There are seven common cancers that have been confidently linked to alcohol: mouth, upper throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, breast, liver, and bowel. Further research is planned to help understand why alcohol is more likely to result in these specific cancers and not others.

So is all alcohol created equal? Is any drink potentially safer than others? A study from 2014 suggests that red wine may be the best choice if you must drink alcohol. A chemical called resveratrol, found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate, has been seen to help fight back against the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Of course this doesn't mean knocking back bottles of red wine is a healthy choice – the safest option ultimately is to simply limit the volume of alcohol one is consuming.


Study reveals how alcohol permanently damages DNA and raises risk of cancer

For several decades we have known that alcohol consumption increases a person's risk of developing several types of cancer, but how this actually occurs has never been completely understood. Now a team at Cambridge University has for the first time clearly demonstrated and described how alcohol permanently damages DNA in stem cells which subsequently increases cancer risks.

Scientists have long hypothesized that acetaldehyde, created when our liver breaks down alcohol, is responsible for some of the carcinogenic risk factors of drinking. We know acetaldehyde is toxic, and in cell culture studies it has been shown to cause cancer.

In this new study a team of scientists administered alcohol, or more specifically ethanol, to mice and then observed the effects through chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing. The team found that acetaldehyde clearly, and permanently, damages the DNA in blood stem cells. This discovery potentially explains how alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers.

"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," says Ketan Patel, lead author of the study. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage."

The scientists further investigated how the body manages this influx of acetaldehyde. It is known that acetaldehyde is broken down in the body by a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). Many people around the world carry defective ALDH enzymes, meaning they cannot effectively clear the body of acetaldehyde after drinking alcohol. As well as explaining why some people feel inordinately unwell after drinking alcohol, this build-up of acetaldehyde can result in greater DNA damage.

When mice deprived of ALDH enzymes were administered alcohol in the study, the researchers identified four times the DNA damage in cells compared to the fully-functioning mice. Translating these results to humans means that, for some people, drinking alcohol could be exponentially more dangerous depending on their individual ability to process acetaldehyde.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," explains Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact."

This study is the clearest understanding we have attained to date explaining the mechanism behind alcohol and cancer. There are seven common cancers that have been confidently linked to alcohol: mouth, upper throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, breast, liver, and bowel. Further research is planned to help understand why alcohol is more likely to result in these specific cancers and not others.

So is all alcohol created equal? Is any drink potentially safer than others? A study from 2014 suggests that red wine may be the best choice if you must drink alcohol. A chemical called resveratrol, found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate, has been seen to help fight back against the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Of course this doesn't mean knocking back bottles of red wine is a healthy choice – the safest option ultimately is to simply limit the volume of alcohol one is consuming.


Study reveals how alcohol permanently damages DNA and raises risk of cancer

For several decades we have known that alcohol consumption increases a person's risk of developing several types of cancer, but how this actually occurs has never been completely understood. Now a team at Cambridge University has for the first time clearly demonstrated and described how alcohol permanently damages DNA in stem cells which subsequently increases cancer risks.

Scientists have long hypothesized that acetaldehyde, created when our liver breaks down alcohol, is responsible for some of the carcinogenic risk factors of drinking. We know acetaldehyde is toxic, and in cell culture studies it has been shown to cause cancer.

In this new study a team of scientists administered alcohol, or more specifically ethanol, to mice and then observed the effects through chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing. The team found that acetaldehyde clearly, and permanently, damages the DNA in blood stem cells. This discovery potentially explains how alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers.

"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," says Ketan Patel, lead author of the study. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage."

The scientists further investigated how the body manages this influx of acetaldehyde. It is known that acetaldehyde is broken down in the body by a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). Many people around the world carry defective ALDH enzymes, meaning they cannot effectively clear the body of acetaldehyde after drinking alcohol. As well as explaining why some people feel inordinately unwell after drinking alcohol, this build-up of acetaldehyde can result in greater DNA damage.

When mice deprived of ALDH enzymes were administered alcohol in the study, the researchers identified four times the DNA damage in cells compared to the fully-functioning mice. Translating these results to humans means that, for some people, drinking alcohol could be exponentially more dangerous depending on their individual ability to process acetaldehyde.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," explains Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact."

This study is the clearest understanding we have attained to date explaining the mechanism behind alcohol and cancer. There are seven common cancers that have been confidently linked to alcohol: mouth, upper throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, breast, liver, and bowel. Further research is planned to help understand why alcohol is more likely to result in these specific cancers and not others.

So is all alcohol created equal? Is any drink potentially safer than others? A study from 2014 suggests that red wine may be the best choice if you must drink alcohol. A chemical called resveratrol, found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate, has been seen to help fight back against the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Of course this doesn't mean knocking back bottles of red wine is a healthy choice – the safest option ultimately is to simply limit the volume of alcohol one is consuming.


Study reveals how alcohol permanently damages DNA and raises risk of cancer

For several decades we have known that alcohol consumption increases a person's risk of developing several types of cancer, but how this actually occurs has never been completely understood. Now a team at Cambridge University has for the first time clearly demonstrated and described how alcohol permanently damages DNA in stem cells which subsequently increases cancer risks.

Scientists have long hypothesized that acetaldehyde, created when our liver breaks down alcohol, is responsible for some of the carcinogenic risk factors of drinking. We know acetaldehyde is toxic, and in cell culture studies it has been shown to cause cancer.

In this new study a team of scientists administered alcohol, or more specifically ethanol, to mice and then observed the effects through chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing. The team found that acetaldehyde clearly, and permanently, damages the DNA in blood stem cells. This discovery potentially explains how alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers.

"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," says Ketan Patel, lead author of the study. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage."

The scientists further investigated how the body manages this influx of acetaldehyde. It is known that acetaldehyde is broken down in the body by a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). Many people around the world carry defective ALDH enzymes, meaning they cannot effectively clear the body of acetaldehyde after drinking alcohol. As well as explaining why some people feel inordinately unwell after drinking alcohol, this build-up of acetaldehyde can result in greater DNA damage.

When mice deprived of ALDH enzymes were administered alcohol in the study, the researchers identified four times the DNA damage in cells compared to the fully-functioning mice. Translating these results to humans means that, for some people, drinking alcohol could be exponentially more dangerous depending on their individual ability to process acetaldehyde.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," explains Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact."

This study is the clearest understanding we have attained to date explaining the mechanism behind alcohol and cancer. There are seven common cancers that have been confidently linked to alcohol: mouth, upper throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, breast, liver, and bowel. Further research is planned to help understand why alcohol is more likely to result in these specific cancers and not others.

So is all alcohol created equal? Is any drink potentially safer than others? A study from 2014 suggests that red wine may be the best choice if you must drink alcohol. A chemical called resveratrol, found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate, has been seen to help fight back against the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Of course this doesn't mean knocking back bottles of red wine is a healthy choice – the safest option ultimately is to simply limit the volume of alcohol one is consuming.


Study reveals how alcohol permanently damages DNA and raises risk of cancer

For several decades we have known that alcohol consumption increases a person's risk of developing several types of cancer, but how this actually occurs has never been completely understood. Now a team at Cambridge University has for the first time clearly demonstrated and described how alcohol permanently damages DNA in stem cells which subsequently increases cancer risks.

Scientists have long hypothesized that acetaldehyde, created when our liver breaks down alcohol, is responsible for some of the carcinogenic risk factors of drinking. We know acetaldehyde is toxic, and in cell culture studies it has been shown to cause cancer.

In this new study a team of scientists administered alcohol, or more specifically ethanol, to mice and then observed the effects through chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing. The team found that acetaldehyde clearly, and permanently, damages the DNA in blood stem cells. This discovery potentially explains how alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers.

"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," says Ketan Patel, lead author of the study. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage."

The scientists further investigated how the body manages this influx of acetaldehyde. It is known that acetaldehyde is broken down in the body by a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). Many people around the world carry defective ALDH enzymes, meaning they cannot effectively clear the body of acetaldehyde after drinking alcohol. As well as explaining why some people feel inordinately unwell after drinking alcohol, this build-up of acetaldehyde can result in greater DNA damage.

When mice deprived of ALDH enzymes were administered alcohol in the study, the researchers identified four times the DNA damage in cells compared to the fully-functioning mice. Translating these results to humans means that, for some people, drinking alcohol could be exponentially more dangerous depending on their individual ability to process acetaldehyde.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," explains Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact."

This study is the clearest understanding we have attained to date explaining the mechanism behind alcohol and cancer. There are seven common cancers that have been confidently linked to alcohol: mouth, upper throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, breast, liver, and bowel. Further research is planned to help understand why alcohol is more likely to result in these specific cancers and not others.

So is all alcohol created equal? Is any drink potentially safer than others? A study from 2014 suggests that red wine may be the best choice if you must drink alcohol. A chemical called resveratrol, found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate, has been seen to help fight back against the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Of course this doesn't mean knocking back bottles of red wine is a healthy choice – the safest option ultimately is to simply limit the volume of alcohol one is consuming.


Study reveals how alcohol permanently damages DNA and raises risk of cancer

For several decades we have known that alcohol consumption increases a person's risk of developing several types of cancer, but how this actually occurs has never been completely understood. Now a team at Cambridge University has for the first time clearly demonstrated and described how alcohol permanently damages DNA in stem cells which subsequently increases cancer risks.

Scientists have long hypothesized that acetaldehyde, created when our liver breaks down alcohol, is responsible for some of the carcinogenic risk factors of drinking. We know acetaldehyde is toxic, and in cell culture studies it has been shown to cause cancer.

In this new study a team of scientists administered alcohol, or more specifically ethanol, to mice and then observed the effects through chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing. The team found that acetaldehyde clearly, and permanently, damages the DNA in blood stem cells. This discovery potentially explains how alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers.

"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," says Ketan Patel, lead author of the study. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage."

The scientists further investigated how the body manages this influx of acetaldehyde. It is known that acetaldehyde is broken down in the body by a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). Many people around the world carry defective ALDH enzymes, meaning they cannot effectively clear the body of acetaldehyde after drinking alcohol. As well as explaining why some people feel inordinately unwell after drinking alcohol, this build-up of acetaldehyde can result in greater DNA damage.

When mice deprived of ALDH enzymes were administered alcohol in the study, the researchers identified four times the DNA damage in cells compared to the fully-functioning mice. Translating these results to humans means that, for some people, drinking alcohol could be exponentially more dangerous depending on their individual ability to process acetaldehyde.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," explains Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact."

This study is the clearest understanding we have attained to date explaining the mechanism behind alcohol and cancer. There are seven common cancers that have been confidently linked to alcohol: mouth, upper throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, breast, liver, and bowel. Further research is planned to help understand why alcohol is more likely to result in these specific cancers and not others.

So is all alcohol created equal? Is any drink potentially safer than others? A study from 2014 suggests that red wine may be the best choice if you must drink alcohol. A chemical called resveratrol, found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate, has been seen to help fight back against the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Of course this doesn't mean knocking back bottles of red wine is a healthy choice – the safest option ultimately is to simply limit the volume of alcohol one is consuming.


Study reveals how alcohol permanently damages DNA and raises risk of cancer

For several decades we have known that alcohol consumption increases a person's risk of developing several types of cancer, but how this actually occurs has never been completely understood. Now a team at Cambridge University has for the first time clearly demonstrated and described how alcohol permanently damages DNA in stem cells which subsequently increases cancer risks.

Scientists have long hypothesized that acetaldehyde, created when our liver breaks down alcohol, is responsible for some of the carcinogenic risk factors of drinking. We know acetaldehyde is toxic, and in cell culture studies it has been shown to cause cancer.

In this new study a team of scientists administered alcohol, or more specifically ethanol, to mice and then observed the effects through chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing. The team found that acetaldehyde clearly, and permanently, damages the DNA in blood stem cells. This discovery potentially explains how alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers.

"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," says Ketan Patel, lead author of the study. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage."

The scientists further investigated how the body manages this influx of acetaldehyde. It is known that acetaldehyde is broken down in the body by a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). Many people around the world carry defective ALDH enzymes, meaning they cannot effectively clear the body of acetaldehyde after drinking alcohol. As well as explaining why some people feel inordinately unwell after drinking alcohol, this build-up of acetaldehyde can result in greater DNA damage.

When mice deprived of ALDH enzymes were administered alcohol in the study, the researchers identified four times the DNA damage in cells compared to the fully-functioning mice. Translating these results to humans means that, for some people, drinking alcohol could be exponentially more dangerous depending on their individual ability to process acetaldehyde.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," explains Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact."

This study is the clearest understanding we have attained to date explaining the mechanism behind alcohol and cancer. There are seven common cancers that have been confidently linked to alcohol: mouth, upper throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, breast, liver, and bowel. Further research is planned to help understand why alcohol is more likely to result in these specific cancers and not others.

So is all alcohol created equal? Is any drink potentially safer than others? A study from 2014 suggests that red wine may be the best choice if you must drink alcohol. A chemical called resveratrol, found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate, has been seen to help fight back against the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Of course this doesn't mean knocking back bottles of red wine is a healthy choice – the safest option ultimately is to simply limit the volume of alcohol one is consuming.


Study reveals how alcohol permanently damages DNA and raises risk of cancer

For several decades we have known that alcohol consumption increases a person's risk of developing several types of cancer, but how this actually occurs has never been completely understood. Now a team at Cambridge University has for the first time clearly demonstrated and described how alcohol permanently damages DNA in stem cells which subsequently increases cancer risks.

Scientists have long hypothesized that acetaldehyde, created when our liver breaks down alcohol, is responsible for some of the carcinogenic risk factors of drinking. We know acetaldehyde is toxic, and in cell culture studies it has been shown to cause cancer.

In this new study a team of scientists administered alcohol, or more specifically ethanol, to mice and then observed the effects through chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing. The team found that acetaldehyde clearly, and permanently, damages the DNA in blood stem cells. This discovery potentially explains how alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers.

"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," says Ketan Patel, lead author of the study. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage."

The scientists further investigated how the body manages this influx of acetaldehyde. It is known that acetaldehyde is broken down in the body by a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). Many people around the world carry defective ALDH enzymes, meaning they cannot effectively clear the body of acetaldehyde after drinking alcohol. As well as explaining why some people feel inordinately unwell after drinking alcohol, this build-up of acetaldehyde can result in greater DNA damage.

When mice deprived of ALDH enzymes were administered alcohol in the study, the researchers identified four times the DNA damage in cells compared to the fully-functioning mice. Translating these results to humans means that, for some people, drinking alcohol could be exponentially more dangerous depending on their individual ability to process acetaldehyde.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," explains Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact."

This study is the clearest understanding we have attained to date explaining the mechanism behind alcohol and cancer. There are seven common cancers that have been confidently linked to alcohol: mouth, upper throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, breast, liver, and bowel. Further research is planned to help understand why alcohol is more likely to result in these specific cancers and not others.

So is all alcohol created equal? Is any drink potentially safer than others? A study from 2014 suggests that red wine may be the best choice if you must drink alcohol. A chemical called resveratrol, found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate, has been seen to help fight back against the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Of course this doesn't mean knocking back bottles of red wine is a healthy choice – the safest option ultimately is to simply limit the volume of alcohol one is consuming.


Study reveals how alcohol permanently damages DNA and raises risk of cancer

For several decades we have known that alcohol consumption increases a person's risk of developing several types of cancer, but how this actually occurs has never been completely understood. Now a team at Cambridge University has for the first time clearly demonstrated and described how alcohol permanently damages DNA in stem cells which subsequently increases cancer risks.

Scientists have long hypothesized that acetaldehyde, created when our liver breaks down alcohol, is responsible for some of the carcinogenic risk factors of drinking. We know acetaldehyde is toxic, and in cell culture studies it has been shown to cause cancer.

In this new study a team of scientists administered alcohol, or more specifically ethanol, to mice and then observed the effects through chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing. The team found that acetaldehyde clearly, and permanently, damages the DNA in blood stem cells. This discovery potentially explains how alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers.

"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," says Ketan Patel, lead author of the study. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage."

The scientists further investigated how the body manages this influx of acetaldehyde. It is known that acetaldehyde is broken down in the body by a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). Many people around the world carry defective ALDH enzymes, meaning they cannot effectively clear the body of acetaldehyde after drinking alcohol. As well as explaining why some people feel inordinately unwell after drinking alcohol, this build-up of acetaldehyde can result in greater DNA damage.

When mice deprived of ALDH enzymes were administered alcohol in the study, the researchers identified four times the DNA damage in cells compared to the fully-functioning mice. Translating these results to humans means that, for some people, drinking alcohol could be exponentially more dangerous depending on their individual ability to process acetaldehyde.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," explains Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact."

This study is the clearest understanding we have attained to date explaining the mechanism behind alcohol and cancer. There are seven common cancers that have been confidently linked to alcohol: mouth, upper throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, breast, liver, and bowel. Further research is planned to help understand why alcohol is more likely to result in these specific cancers and not others.

So is all alcohol created equal? Is any drink potentially safer than others? A study from 2014 suggests that red wine may be the best choice if you must drink alcohol. A chemical called resveratrol, found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate, has been seen to help fight back against the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Of course this doesn't mean knocking back bottles of red wine is a healthy choice – the safest option ultimately is to simply limit the volume of alcohol one is consuming.


Study reveals how alcohol permanently damages DNA and raises risk of cancer

For several decades we have known that alcohol consumption increases a person's risk of developing several types of cancer, but how this actually occurs has never been completely understood. Now a team at Cambridge University has for the first time clearly demonstrated and described how alcohol permanently damages DNA in stem cells which subsequently increases cancer risks.

Scientists have long hypothesized that acetaldehyde, created when our liver breaks down alcohol, is responsible for some of the carcinogenic risk factors of drinking. We know acetaldehyde is toxic, and in cell culture studies it has been shown to cause cancer.

In this new study a team of scientists administered alcohol, or more specifically ethanol, to mice and then observed the effects through chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing. The team found that acetaldehyde clearly, and permanently, damages the DNA in blood stem cells. This discovery potentially explains how alcohol increases the risk of developing several types of cancers.

"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," says Ketan Patel, lead author of the study. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage."

The scientists further investigated how the body manages this influx of acetaldehyde. It is known that acetaldehyde is broken down in the body by a group of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). Many people around the world carry defective ALDH enzymes, meaning they cannot effectively clear the body of acetaldehyde after drinking alcohol. As well as explaining why some people feel inordinately unwell after drinking alcohol, this build-up of acetaldehyde can result in greater DNA damage.

When mice deprived of ALDH enzymes were administered alcohol in the study, the researchers identified four times the DNA damage in cells compared to the fully-functioning mice. Translating these results to humans means that, for some people, drinking alcohol could be exponentially more dangerous depending on their individual ability to process acetaldehyde.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," explains Patel. "But it's important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact."

This study is the clearest understanding we have attained to date explaining the mechanism behind alcohol and cancer. There are seven common cancers that have been confidently linked to alcohol: mouth, upper throat, laryngeal, oesophageal, breast, liver, and bowel. Further research is planned to help understand why alcohol is more likely to result in these specific cancers and not others.

So is all alcohol created equal? Is any drink potentially safer than others? A study from 2014 suggests that red wine may be the best choice if you must drink alcohol. A chemical called resveratrol, found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate, has been seen to help fight back against the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. Of course this doesn't mean knocking back bottles of red wine is a healthy choice – the safest option ultimately is to simply limit the volume of alcohol one is consuming.