Alcohol Damages Stem Cells, Leading to Cancer

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It has long been known that alcohol has negative effects on the body. You have short-term effects like nausea, headaches, diarrhea, and impaired vision and judgement. There are also longer-term effects like cirrhosis, high blood pressure, heart attack, and certain types of cancer. But according to a new study, there is a long-lasting, negative effect to alcohol consumption that was previously undetected.

A recently published study has revealed that alcohol can permanently damage stem cell DNA and increase cancer risk. While the connection between alcohol and cancer is not new, this study has shown that it can lead to an increased risk in developed seven different types of cancer, including breast and bowel. This is specifically linked to the ability of alcohol to break down – and ultimately destroy – stem cell DNA. Until this point, it was unclear why alcohol could cause cancer, but the study has shed light on this.

The stem cell destruction is caused by acetaldehyde, a byproduct of alcohol, which is created by the body when the liver breaks down alcohol. In fact, a buildup of acetaldehyde in the body is what ultimately leads to hangovers. And the study has showed that if someone lacks the body’s two defenses against acetaldehyde exposure, then they face a higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage, which can lead to cancer.

The first level of defense in the body is aldehyde dehydrogenase 2, which is responsible for making sure that there is not a toxic buildup of acetaldehyde in the body. The second level is the ability of the body to repair damaged DNA cells. If both of these levels of defense are missing or are damaged, acetaldehyde is easily able to snip through stem cells DNA and leave them damaged beyond repair. This damage gives rise to cancerous cells.

This is not the end of research into the effects of alcohol as a carcinogen – it merely is a jumping off point. It highlights what alcohol is able to do to our cells and gives researchers a basis for the link between alcohol and increasing cancer risks. While alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways other than with acetaldehyde, scientists will be able to use this research to better understand the debilitating effects alcohol has on the body.

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