Excessive alcohol consumption may lead to increased cancer risk

April 21, 2010, American Association for Cancer Research

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.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Sweet, bitter, fat: New study reveals impact of genetics on how kids snack

February 22, 2018
Whether your child asks for crackers, cookies or veggies to snack on could be linked to genetics, according to new findings from the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph.

The good and bad health news about your exercise posts on social media

February 22, 2018
We all have that Facebook friend—or 10—who regularly posts photos of his or her fitness pursuits: on the elliptical at the gym, hiking through the wilderness, crossing a 10K finish line.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Tackling health problems in the young is crucial for their children's future

February 21, 2018
A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy - even going back to adolescence - according to a new study by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, ...

Lead and other toxic metals found in e-cigarette 'vapors': study

February 21, 2018
Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Why teens need up to 10 hours' sleep

February 21, 2018
Technology, other distractions and staying up late make is difficult, but researchers say teenagers need to make time for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to optimise their performance and maintain good health and wellbeing.

0 comments

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.