Their findings offered more detail about how alcohol increases the risk of developing 7 types of cancer, including common forms such as breast and bowel cancer.
The study also examined how the body tries to protect itself against damage caused by alcohol.
Researchers in England conducted the study in mice, however, experts say that the mechanisms linking alcohol to DNA damage are the same in mice and men.
"Drinking alcohol damages blood * a class="glink tt_basic" href="/page_1716.asp" rel="*page.asp?obj_id=1716&cAct=SIMP" *stem cells by altering their * a class="glink tt_basic" href="/page_1676.asp" rel="*page.asp?obj_id=1676&cAct=SIMP" *DNA, raising the risk of developing cancer, scientists have found.
These stem cells are crucial for replenishing cells lost throughout the life span, but once they are damaged, they can spread the damage further.
The study, which was published on January 3, in the journal Nature, took a precise look at how exposure to alcohol, and the compounds that result when the body breaks down alcohol, cause damage to chromosomes in blood stem cells.
Researchers concluded that people who are deficient in defenses against alcohol are more likely to experience DNA damage and their risk of cancer skyrockets. However, acetaldehyde doesn't always have such a destructive effect on the body thanks to two saving mechanisms.
"This thought-provoking research highlights the damage alcohol can do to our cells, costing some people more than just a hangover". It was found that acetaldehyde broke and caused damage to DNA within blood stem cells, leading to chromosomes being rearranged and DNA sequences being permanently altered. 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. They learned that a byproduct of alcohol metabolism dubbed acetaldehyde turns into poison which can dramatically affect the drinker's DNA.
In the study, mice lacking ALDH2 suffered four times as damage compared with the other ones.
But in some instances and in some people - particularly people from South East Asia - the fix systems fail to work, meaning their cells are unable to fix effectively.