Drinking alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of upper-gastrointestinal cancer--as well as other types of cancer. But, researchers don't yet understand the basic molecular reasons why. Now, a new study by scientists from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, may shine some light on the link between alcohol and cancer. Dr. P.J. Brooks--one of the co-leaders of the research team--said the search for a biochemical link is now focused on a chemical called "acetaldehyde"--which forms when the body metabolizes alcohol--and its reaction with small molecules called "polyamines" that are naturally present in our cells...
"What we found is that the acetaldehyde can react with this other chemical that's present in our cells--and that causes kind of a chain reaction that, ultimately, results in a particularly dangerous type of DNA damage. We did these studies using concentrations of acetaldehyde that are within the range that might actually occur in--particularly in the mouth--when people drink alcohol. So, we believe, then, these studies are biologically relevant--although it is important to point out that these are 'test tube' studies, still. So, we still have to verify this work in living cells."
Dr. Brooks said that researchers have long suspected acetaldehyde's role in the link between
alcohol and cancer. He said the study gives scientists important new clues about its involvement.
From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt, in Bethesda, Maryland.