Excessive alcohol consumption may lead to increased cancer risk

April 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.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

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.