Alcohol may cause cancer by damaging stem cell DNA: study


Drinking alcohol may cause irreversible damage to the DNA of stem cells and increase the risk of developing certain cancers, a new study has revealed.

Using genetically modified mice, British scientists found that acetaldehyde, a toxin produced as the body processes alcohol, can slice through the DNA within blood stem cells and cause permanent damage.

In the study, published recently in the journal Nature, the mice lost their ability to reproduce fresh blood after being given diluted alcohol for ten days.

Sequencing the genome of the stem cells indicated that their DNA had been scrambled to the point that the cells no longer functioned.

When healthy stem cells are faulty, they can give rise to cancerous cells, particularly in the mouth, throat, oesophagus, breast and so on.

The effects of such damage can be neutralized, however, by the body’s two-layer defence mechanism. The first layer is a protective enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), which prevents build-ups of acetaldehyde, and the second repairs the DNA damage.

In the study, mice lacking ALDH2 suffered four times as damage compared with the other ones.

About 8 percent of the world’s population, mostly those of East Asian ancestry, are born with an deficiency in ALDH2.

“Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers,” said Ketan Patel, who led the research at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,( is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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