Monday, December 10, 2018

Alcohol can damage DNA and increase cancer risk

Scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, gave diluted alcohol, ethanol, to mice. They then looked at the DNA sequencing and chromosome analysis to identify the genetic damage of acetaldehyde, which is a chemical produced when the body breaks down alcohol. Acetaldehyde was found to break down and damage DNA within blood stem cells leading to rearranged chromosomes and prominent alteration of DNA sequences. Damage of healthy stem cells leads to higher risk of developing cancers. It is important to understand that the body carries an enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase, that breaks down acetaldehyde into acetate but many people do not have this enzyme or carry a faulty form of it, particularly those from a South East Asian decent. When the effects of alcohol were monitored with mice lacking the ALDH enzyme were observed, it resulted in four times as much DNA damage in their cells compared to other mice. Obviously, there are also DNA repair mechanisms that can fix and repair DNA damage but these mechanisms and systems can sometimes be faulty. Thus, it will lead to more mutations in the body and eventually these can be harmful and cause cancers.

This was an interesting perspective to read about when it comes to binge drinking. I understood that binge drinking isn't good in general for your body but they did a great job explaining the effects it actually has. Essentially, binge drinking causes more mutations in the body that can eventually lead to cancers; specifically, it can lead to bowel and breast cancers. Perhaps, this could be why men are more susceptible to colon cancer because men binge drink much more than women do. I also find it interesting that there is so much contradicting research when it comes to alcohol; so much research has its beneficial effects of drinking and there is also tons that indicates how harmful it is for you.


  1. It really is curious to think about comparison between the benefits and harmful effects that alcohol has on the body. For instance, it is known that moderate amounts of red wine daily have positive effects on heart health. Just like how its been mentioned multiple times by society that beer has all the nutrients a person needs to survive therefore allowing a person to live off beer. From my knowledge and life experience I believe that moderation is the key to life and drinking alcohol in moderation could provide medical benefits however like you mentioned, binge drinking could cause detrimental damage to our bodies.

  2. Although beer and wine has a small reputation for health benefits, I personally have not heard of any health benefits of hard alcohols. Also the benefits that beer and wine are known for are only when consumed in small amounts. Let's be honest, do any of us only ever have one? I agree balance is key. This will definitely make me think twice before having my next drink.