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Mutat Res. 1987 Nov;186(3):261-7.

International Commission for Protection against Environmental Mutagens and Carcinogens. ICPEMC Working Paper No. 15/6. Effect of ethanol on nitrosamine metabolism and distribution. Implications for the role of nitrosamines in human cancer and for the influence of alcohol consumption on cancer incidence.

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Institute of Biochemistry, Middlesex Hospital, Medical School, London, Great Britain.


Alcohol consumption is associated with an increase in the incidence of cancers of several sites, including oesophagus, larynx and mouth. The mechanism of the induction of cancer by alcohol is not clear. Humans are exposed to a variety of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. Ethanol changes the pharmacokinetics of nitrosamines in rats particularly by decreasing the ability of the liver to metabolize them. A hypothesis is put forward that the influence of alcohol on human cancer is mediated by its effect on the metabolism and distribution of nitrosamines from the diet, from tobacco smoke and from endogenous synthesis.

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