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Alcohol Shown to Cause Breast Cancer
About 30 years ago, scientists discovered a link between alcohol consumption and certain types of cancer. The link was found between alcohol and upper digestive cancer, liver cancer, cancers of the colon, and rectum and breast cancer. Although the association was detected, there was no evidence that alcohol caused the cancer.
A new study published in the December 2011 edition of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research establishes a new understanding of the relationship between alcohol and breast cancer. Scientists have discovered that acetaldehyde plays a significant role in the development of breast cancer in those who have a history of alcohol consumption.
The study also examined how acetaldehyde-related DNA damage can cause problems that lead to liver cancer. Previous research had already established a causal relationship between alcohol and esophageal cancer that was rooted in the way the body metabolizes alcohol.
Corresponding author of the study, Philip J. Brooks, is the program director for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Division of Metabolism and Health Effects. Brooks explains that recent research has begun to broaden the understanding of ethanol as a carcinogen in multiple locations in the body.
When a person consumes alcohol, the body turns the alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is a chemical that has structural similarities to formaldehyde. Acetaldehyde has been shown to be responsible for initiating DNA damage and has also caused problems with abnormalities in chromosomes in previous studies involving cell cultures.
this specific enzyme has been shown in a recent study to be genetically varied in up to 30 percent of the East Asian population, making it impossible for some people to efficiently convert acetaldehyde to acetate. This is the link that scientists discovered to understand the carcinogenicity of acetaldehyde and the way alcohol can cause esophageal cancers.
In the current study, the researchers showed how acetaldehyde interrupted the DNA genome replication in cell division. There is a network of proteins that handles DNA damage by repairing it or allowing the replication to bypass the damage.
The researchers discovered that when human cells were caused to metabolize alcohol into acetaldehyde, the protein network sprang into action to respond to the DNA damage being caused by the acetaldehyde.
Brooks cautions that this research is just an initial step in understanding the role of acetaldehyde in how liver and breast tissue enzymes respond to alcohol. Though the study showed some DNA damage caused by the chemical, further research is required to establish the role of acetaldehyde in the development of breast and liver cancers.