April 22, 2010
PHILADELPHIAExcessive alcohol consumption is linked to an increase in cancer risk, according to a new study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 101st Annual Meeting 2010.
Excessive use of alcohol has been linked to oxidative stress and inflammation that accelerate telomere shortening. Telomeres are found at the region of DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome and are important for the genetic stability of cells. As people age, telomere length shortens progressively.
"Heavy alcohol users tend to look haggard, and it is commonly thought heavy drinking leads to premature aging and earlier onset of diseases of aging. In particular, heavy alcohol drinking has been associated with cancer at multiple sites," said lead researcher Andrea Baccarelli, MD, PhD.
Using real-time polymerase chain reaction, the researchers measured serum DNA among 59 participants who abused alcohol (22 percent consumed four or more alcoholic drinks per day) and 197 participants with variable alcohol consumption habits (4 percent consumed four or more alcoholic drinks per day). The two groups were similar in age and other factors that might affect telomere length, such as diet, physical exercise, work-related stress and environmental exposures.
Results showed that telomere length was dramatically shortened in those who consumed heavy amounts of alcohol; telomere length was nearly half as long as telomere length in the non-abusers (0.41 versus 0.79 relative units).
Carriers of the variant genotype ADH1B were more likely to be abusers and had shorter telomere length, Baccarelli said, adding the decrease we found in telomere length is very sharp, and we were surprised to find such a strong effect at the cellular level."
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