Much previous research looking at the precise ways in which alcohol causes cancer has been done in cell cultures. But in this study, researchers have used mice to show how alcohol exposure leads to permanent genetic damage.
Scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, gave diluted alcohol, chemically known as ethanol, to mice. They then used chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing to examine the genetic damage caused by acetaldehyde, a harmful chemical produced when the body processes alcohol.
They found that acetaldehyde can break and damage DNA within blood stem cells leading to rearranged chromosomes and permanently altering the DNA sequences within these cells.
It is important to understand how the DNA blueprint within stem cells is damaged because when healthy stem cells become faulty, they can give rise to cancer.
These new findings therefore help us to understand how drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing 7 types of cancer including common types like breast and bowel.