Mechanism of alcohol in the cancer development

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Mechanism of alcohol in the cancer development

Mechanism of alcohol in the cancer development

 Researchers have hypothesized multiple ways that alcohol may increase the risk of certain cancers:

  • When alcohol is consumed, it is broken down into a toxic chemical substance called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde can damage DNA (the genetic material that makes up genes) inside our cells and can further avoid the repair of this damage in the DNA. This is important because it allows cancer to develop.
  • Generation of free radicals (chemically reactive molecules that may contain oxygen), which can additionally damage DNA, proteins, and lipids (fats) in the body through a process called oxidation, when oxygen containing radicals are involved, which is exacerbated by the presence of alcohol and acetaldehyde, particularly at higher BAC levels (above approx. 0.5-0.8 ‰, Gessner et al 2019, Ströhle et al 2012).
  • Alcohol can impair the body’s ability to break down and absorb a variety of nutrients that may be associated with cancer risk, including vitamin A; nutrients in the vitamin B complex, such as folate, niacin and vitamin B12,vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and carotenoids (provitamin A). In addition, excess alcohol consumption reduces energy intake (by decreasing appetite, causing nausea and vomiting), consumes energy and vitamins during its metabolisation by the liver, and increases the elimination of metabolites by the kidney.
  • Alcohol acts as a dissolvent and makes it easier for cells in the mouth and throat to absorb other cancer-causing chemicals, in particular those of the tobacco smoke.
  • Alcohol can increase the levels of certain hormones in the body, including oestrogen. It is known that high levels of oestrogen can promote the development of breast cancer.








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