Tuesday, July 17, 2018 | ePaper

Alcohol damages DNA, increases cancer risk

  • Print


Life DeskĀ  :
Alcohol consumption permanently damages the DNA in stem cells, which in turn increases the risk of developing cancer, a study led by an Indian-origin scientist warns.
Much previous research looking at the precise ways in which alcohol causes cancer has been done in cell cultures. However, in the new study, researchers used mice to show how alcohol exposure leads to permanent genetic damage.
Scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge in the UK gave diluted alcohol, chemically known as ethanol, to mice. They then used chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing to examine the genetic damage caused by acetaldehyde, a harmful chemical produced when the body processes alcohol. The researchers found that acetaldehyde can break and damage DNA within blood stem cells leading to rearranged chromosomes and permanently altering the DNA sequences within these cells.
"Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells," said Professor Ketan Patel from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. "While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage," said Patel, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.
It is important to understand how the DNA blueprint within stem cells is damaged because when healthy stem cells become faulty, they can give rise to cancer, researchers said. The new findings help us to understand how drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing seven types of cancer including common types like breast and bowel, they said.
The study also examined how the body tries to protect itself against damage caused by alcohol. The first line of defence is a family of enzymes called aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH). These enzymes break down harmful acetaldehyde into acetate, which our cells can use as a source of energy. Worldwide, millions of people, particularly those from South East Asia, either lack these enzymes or carry faulty versions of them, researchers said. When they drink, acetaldehyde builds up which causes a flushed complexion, and also leads to them feeling unwell, they said.
In the study, when mice lacking the critical ALDH enzyme - ALDH2 - were given alcohol, it resulted in four times as much DNA damage in their cells compared to mice with the fully functioning ALDH2 enzyme. The second line of defence used by cells is a variety of DNA repair systems which, most of the time, allow them to fix and reverse different types of DNA damage.
However, they do not always work and some people carry mutations which mean their cells are not able to carry out these repairs effectively. "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," Patel said. "But it is 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 defence mechanisms are intact," he added.
- PTI, London

More News For this Category

It's time to take back control of smartphone

It's time to take back control of smartphone

Rayhan Ahmed Topader :With more than half of young adults admitting to excessive use of smartphones, we look at the apps designed to break the habitStuart Dredge.As a tech

Napkins' high price bars menstrual safety in Bangladesh

Napkins' high price bars menstrual safety in Bangladesh

Gulam Rabbani :Sanitary napkin is one of the most sellable goods in the market. But most of the women in our country, especially women of the lower and middle-income

Food items that reduce migraine

Food items that reduce migraine

Life Desk :Migraine, or extreme headaches, can steal the peace and tranquility from your life. Although it is a genetic disorder, environment, lifestyle, diet and hormonal imbalance also play

Mother's healthy lifestyle can reduce childhood obesity

Mother's healthy lifestyle can reduce childhood obesity

Life Desk :Children and adolescents whose mothers follow these five healthy habits are 75 percent less likely to become obese compared with children of mothers who did not follow

Knee pain among older adults

Life Desk :Patients older than 40 may benefit from using a fresh osteochondral allograft transplantation to treat focal cartilage defects, a common cause of knee pain in adults, according

Are apple seeds poisonous?

Are apple seeds poisonous?

Life Desk :Of late there have been a spate of social media posts on how apple seeds can be poisonous. We did some research on this and here is

Physical sickness may create mental enigma

Physical sickness may create mental enigma

Life Desk :Prof Dr Md. Harunur Rashid, Assistant Professor of Delta Medical College and Hospital, is a renowned psychiatrist. Recently in a brief interview with the New Nation, he

Unlocking the power of prayer

Unlocking the power of prayer

Life Desk :Carly was feeling overwhelmed with life. A budding entrepreneur, she was passionate about her business and truly believed in what she was doing. But fear often got

Hair hacks

Hair hacks

Life Desk :The drop in temperature and cold wind blowing can take away the moisture and natural oils of your hair, making them dry and visibly dull. It just

Five edible plants for better health

Five edible plants for better health

Life Desk :Edible plants, as the name suggests, are those herbs, leaves and flowers that have a high nutritional value and parts of them can be safely consumed by