There is a growing body of research linking alcohol consumption with an increased risk of cancer, and now a team of scientists from the Molecular Biology Laboratory of the Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom believes they have found a plausible explanation.
In the mouse study, after giving them diluted alcohol, chemically known as ethanol, they used chromosomal analysis and DNA sequencing to examine the genetic damage caused by acetaldehyde, a harmful chemical that is produced when the body processes alcohol, discovering that alcohol damaged DNA in blood- forming stem cells because of this byproduct of the alcohol metabolism process, acetaldehyde.
Acetaldehyde can damage and cause double-strand breaks in the DNA inside these cells, altering them permanently.
Thus, when one consumes alcohol in such quantities that the body needs to fight to metabolize it, it accumulates in the cells, wreaking havoc on the DNA. If everything works correctly, a group of enzymes (called aldehyde dehydrogenases -ALDH-) are responsible for neutralizing acetaldehyde converting it into acetate, which the body can use for energy. But, when it accumulates, the problems begin.
“This document provides very strong evidence that a metabolite of alcohol causes DNA damage, important stem cells that become tissues,” explains Ketan Patel, leader of the work.
Previous research found that acetaldehyde generates DNA damage, but these experiments were performed in cell cultures, not in a living organism. By using a living being, this study with mice represents a critical advance in understanding what is happening with alcohol within the body.