- New evidence suggests that the chemical
which prompts a hangover after a night of heavy drinking may also cause
cancer, according to an international team of scientists. Acetaldehyde
is produced by the human body as it processes the ethanol in alcoholic
beverages and, in addition to the "morning after" effects, has
been shown to damage certain genetic building blocks. Now scientists
have shown that those damaged parts are efficiently inserted into DNA.
- The findings appear in the Jan. 19 print
edition of the journal Biochemistry, published by the American Chemical
Society, the world's largest scientific society. The paper first appeared
in the journal's web edition on Dec. 29.
- Small amounts of acetaldehyde are rendered
harmless in most people by an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2.
A large percentage of Asians, however, lack the gene responsible for making
the enzyme and are known to be particularly prone to esophageal and liver
cancers. The new research suggests that "prolonged alcohol intake
beyond the capacity of detoxification of acetaldehyde in the body may increase
cancer risk," says Shinya Shibutani, Ph.D., one of the paper's authors
and a faculty member at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
- DNA is made up of chemicals called nucleotides
which, when altered, can cause mutations that lead to cancer. The current
study shows that an acetaldehyde-damaged nucleotide, called N2-ethyl-2
-deoxyguanosine (N2-ethyl-dG), is readily incorporated into DNA within
mammalian cells. The work seems to support previous studies linking alcohol
consumption to cancers of the esophagus, larynx, and liver.
- In addition to alcohol metabolism, acetaldehyde
is produced during normal digestion and is found in many foods, automotive
exhaust, and cigarette smoke. It also is commonly produced during industrial
processes to make dyes, plastics, and synthetic rubbers. Scientists even
found N2-ethyl-dG in urine from healthy volunteers who had abstained from
- "This indicates the cellular nucleotide
pool and DNA are exposed constantly to acetaldehyde even without drinking
alcoholic beverages," says Shibutani.
- Scientists at Kyoto University in Japan
and at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia also contributed to
the Biochemistry paper.
- A nonprofit organization with a membership
of more than 155,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical
Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research
conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs
in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
- From Charmayne Marsh <email@example.com
- American Chemical Society www.acs.org