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Alcohol Res Health. 2007;30(1):38-41, 44-7.

Alcohol metabolism and cancer risk.

Author information

1
Center ofA lcohol Research, Liver Disease and Nutrition, Salem Medical Center, University ofHeidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Abstract

Chronic alcohol consumption increases the risk for cancer of the organs and tissues of the respiratory tract and the upper digestive tract (i.e., upper aerodigestive tract), liver, colon, rectum, and breast. Various factors may contribute to the development (i.e., pathogenesis) of alcohol-associated cancer, including the actions of acetaldehyde, the first and most toxic metabolite of alcohol metabolism. The main enzymes involved in alcohol and acetaldehyde metabolism are alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), which are encoded by multiple genes. Because some of these genes exist in several variants (i.e., are polymorphic), and the enzymes encoded by certain variants may result in elevated acetaldehyde levels, the presence of these variants may predispose to certain cancers. Several mechanisms may contribute to alcohol-related cancer development. Acetaldehyde itself is a cancer-causing substance in experimental animals and reacts with DNA to form cancer-promoting compounds. In addition, highly reactive, oxygen-containing molecules that are generated during certain pathways of alcohol metabolism can damage the DNA, thus also inducing tumor development. Together with other factors related to chronic alcohol consumption, these metabolism-related factors may increase tumor risk in chronic heavy drinkers.

PMID:
17718399
PMCID:
PMC3860434
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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