Alcohol may increase cancer risk for some

It sure seems that every time we see a study that gives us some good health news, another one comes along which paints an even more dire picture. As does this one, at least if you’re of Asian descent.

It has long been suspected that alcohol consumption can increase the risk of some types of cancer. This study purports to now have solid proof. (No pun intended.)

First evidence from humans on how alcohol may boost risk of cancer

Silvia Balbo, Ph.D., who led the study, explained that the human body breaks down, or metabolizes, the alcohol in beer, wine and hard liquor. One of the substances formed in that breakdown is acetaldehyde, a substance with a chemical backbone that resembles formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Scientists also have known from laboratory experiments that acetaldehyde can cause DNA damage, trigger chromosomal abnormalities in cell cultures and act as an animal carcinogen.

“We now have the first evidence from living human volunteers that acetaldehyde formed after alcohol consumption damages DNA dramatically,” Balbo said. She is a research associate in the laboratory of Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., a noted authority on cancer prevention at the University of Minnesota. “Acetaldehyde attaches to DNA in humans ― to the genetic material that makes up genes – in a way that results in the formation of a ‘DNA adduct.’ It’s acetaldehyde that latches onto DNA and interferes with DNA activity in a way linked to an increased risk of cancer.”

It turns out that about 30% of Asians have a variant of the alcohol dehydrogenase gene so are unable to metabolize alcohol into acetate, and that ultimately translates into an increased risk of esophogeal cancer. Native Americans and native Alaskans have the same variant. That’s over one-and-a-half billion people.

Of course the study used vodka for their tests, and there was no mention in anything I read if there might be a difference between spirits and wine or beer.

As always: Everything in moderation.

Regular alcohol consumption linked to increased cancer risk

Here we go again. Now it appears that if you’re a regular to heavy drinker, you have more chance of developing cancer. And not just a single type, either. Alcohol has been linked to cancer of the breast, liver, colon, pancreas, mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, and (recently) lungs.

For some of these cancers, such as lung, larynx and colorectal, the cancer risk only sets in when people drink heavily—three or four drinks a day on a regular basis. But just one drink a day raises the risk for cancers of the mouth and esophagus, several studies show.

And the risk of breast cancer starts to rise with as few as three drinks a week, according to the U.K.’s Million Women Study, one of more than 100 studies linking alcohol consumption and breast cancer.

Wall Street Journal: Raising the Chance of Some Cancers With Two Drinks a Day (‘ware the WSJ.com paywall!)

Will this make me drink less beer? Probably not. Just like when there was a study that showed that moderate consumption of alcohol reduced the risk of heart disease, I didn’t start drinking more.

In all things: moderation.

Engineering a cancer-fighting beer

Resveratrol is getting a lot of press lately. It is the miracle compound which apparently allows the French to enjoy a cuisine loaded with saturated fats and yet avoid heart disease. Its cancer-fighting properties have also been documented.

Some researchers at Rice University are trying to genetically engineer some brewing yeast in order to create beer loaded with resveratrol.

ComputerWorld: University researchers developing cancer-fighting beer

[University of] Wisconsin researchers had noted that adding small doses of resveratrol to the diet of middle-aged mice significantly slows their aging and keeps their hearts healthy. And they added that giving high doses to invertebrates extends their life spans, and high doses also stave off premature death in mice fed a high-fat diet.

[Taylor] Stevenson said that the Rice research group, most of the members of which aren’t old enough to legally drink alcoholic beverages, came up with the idea of adding resveratrol to beer during a casual conversation about potential projects to undertake. “The idea is that it may have greater effects [in beer than in wine],” he added. “The amount of red wine you’d need to drink to get the same results they get with rats in labs is about half a bottle a day.”

He explained that the amount of resveratrol in wine varies from bottle to bottle, since it depends on growing conditions for the grapes and other variables. The researchers felt they could design a beer with higher and more consistent concentrations of the cancer-fighting chemical.

(via Scribal Terror (via Wired (via ComputerWorld)))