Excessive alcohol consumption may lead to increased cancer risk

Apr 21, 2010

Researchers have detected a link between alcohol consumption, cancer and aging that starts at the cellular level with telomere shortening.

Results of this cross-sectional study were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 101st Annual Meeting 2010, held here, April 17-21, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Telomeres are found at the region of at the end of a chromosome, and are important for the genetic stability of cells. As people age, telomere length shortens progressively.

Excessive use of alcohol has been linked to oxidative stress and inflammation, two mechanisms that accelerate telomere shortening. Since telomere shortening is thought to increase cancer risk, the researchers speculated that those with shorter telomeres due to heavy alcohol consumption would have an increased risk of cancer.

"Heavy alcohol users tend to look haggard, and it is commonly thought heavy drinking leads to premature aging and earlier onset of diseases of aging. In particular, heavy alcohol drinking has been associated with cancer at multiple sites," said lead researcher Andrea Baccarelli, M.D., Ph.D.

"All the cells in our body have a in telomeres," noted Baccarelli, who is head of the Center of Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology, Ca' Granda Hospital Foundation, University of Milan, Italy.

Using real-time , the researchers measured serum DNA among 59 participants who abused alcohol (22 percent consumed four or more alcoholic drinks per day) and 197 participants with variable habits (4 percent consumed four or more per day).

The two groups were similar in age and other factors that might affect telomere length, such as diet, , work-related stress and environmental exposures.

Results showed that telomere length was dramatically shortened in those who consumed heavy amounts of alcohol; telomere length was nearly half as long as telomere length in the non-abusers (0.41 vs. 0.79 relative units).

Carriers of the variant genotype ADH1B were more likely to be abusers and had shorter telomere length, according to Baccarelli.

"The decrease we found in telomere length is very sharp, and we were surprised to find such a strong effect at the cellular level," Baccarelli said.

Explore further: International team reveals barriers to public health data-sharing; proposes life-saving solutions

Related Stories

Childhood adversity may promote cellular aging

Mar 16, 2010

Children who suffer physical or emotional abuse could be faced with accelerated cellular aging as adults, according to new research published by Elsevier in Biological Psychiatry.

Common weed could provide clues on aging and cancer

Oct 26, 2009

A common weed and human cancer cells could provide some very uncommon details about DNA structure and its relationship with telomeres and how they affect cellular aging and cancer, according to a team led by scientists from ...

Recommended for you

ER visits on the rise, study reports

3 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The number of emergency department visits in the United States rose from about 130 million in 2010 to a record 136 million in 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Better assessment of decision-making capacity

7 hours ago

Physicians often find it hard to tell if a patient suffering from dementia or depression is capable of making sound judgements. This is shown by a study conducted within the scope of the National Research Programme "End of ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.