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Novartis Found Symp. 2007;285:145-53; discussion 153-7, 198-9.

Pharmacological treatments and strategies for reducing oral and intestinal acetaldehyde.

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  • 1Research Unit of Substance Abuse Medicine, University of Helsinki, Biomedicum Helsinki, Finland.


Strong epidemiological, genetic and biochemical evidence indicates that local acetaldehyde exposure is a major factor behind gastrointestinal cancers especially associated with alcohol drinking and smoking. Thus, reducing the exposure to carcinogenic acetaldehyde either by decreasing the production or by eliminating acetaldehyde locally might offer a preventive strategy against acetaldehyde-induced gastrointestinal cancers. Thiol products, such as the amino acid cysteine, are known to be able to protect against acetaldehyde toxicity. Cysteine is able to bind acetaldehyde efficiently by forming a stable thiazolidine-carboxylic acid compound. Special cysteine preparations (such as lozenge and chewing gum) have already been developed to bind smoking and alcohol drinking derived acetaldehyde from the oral cavity. Most importantly, these type of drug formulations offer a novel method for intervention studies aimed to resolve the eventual role of acetaldehyde in the pathogenesis of upper digestive tract cancers. Acetaldehyde exposure could also be influenced by modifying the acetaldehyde producing microbiota. With regard to the upper digestive tract, acetaldehyde production from ingested ethanol could be significantly reduced by using an antiseptic mouthwash, chlorhexidine. In the large intestine acetaldehyde production could be markedly decreased either by reducing the Gram-negative microbes by ciprofloxacin antibiotic or by lowering the intraluminal pH by lactulose.

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