Alcohol consumption is a normal habit in many countries. People have the tendency to smoke alcohol when they met and gather with acquaintances. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Base and Alcoholism, around 15 million adults in the United States suffered from alcohol use disorder in 2015. Alcohol has been studied and discovered to not only playing a role in physical diseases and consequences but also on the social perspective as it is one of the main causes of divorce.

source: World Health Organisation | Total alcohol per capita consumption, 2010

“Alcohol and endogenous aldehydes damage chromosomes and mutate stem cells” is a study conducted by professor Ketan Patel and his team, published in the online journal Nature during April. Mice were used to understand the genetic deterioration, as a result of alcohol vulnerability, by consuming diluted alcohol (ethanol).

After alcohol consumption, when the body processes it, oxidation of ethanol happens and acetaldehyde is produced. Acetaldehyde is an injurious component and for this reason, researchers did analyzation of chromosome and DNA sequencing to comprehend the genetic harm. DNA in blood stem cells can be injured by acetaldehyde resulting in remodeled chromosomes as well as forever-changed DNA sequences. When these stem cells become DNA-changed, they can lead to cancer. This leads to the conclusion that alcohol consumption increases the risk for stem cells damage and thus increasing the risk of cancer.

source: World Health Organisation | Distribution of alcohol-attributable deaths, as a percentage of all alcohol-attributable deaths by broad disease category, 2012

Just like for anything else, our body is able, or better say has the mechanism, to self-defend from alcohol damages throughout aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDH) enzymes. The latter makes sure to disintegrate acetaldehyde into acetate and then use it as energy supply. Researchers monitored that, mice which didn’t have the enzyme ALDH2 and were then given alcohol, appeared to have 4 times more damaged DNA compared to mice which had the ALDH2 enzyme. In addition, our body has other different DNA repair systems which have the role of overturning and repairing the DNA-harmed cells. It means two defending systems against alcohol damages but like in life, not everything works perfectly. These systems don’t always work completely, leading thus to less effective repair.

Even people with optimal defense mechanism can be affected by cancer from alcohol. Worse are those who aren’t capable of an adequate alcohol processing as they have a higher risk of damaging the DNA on stem cells leading to exposure to different cancers. One can understand by him/herself which is the amount of alcohol allowed to consume and should be cautious not to exaggerate with drinking.