Scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge discovered new evidence that suggests alcohol causes damage at a cellular level, with prolonged use leading to permanent damage to DNA. Ketan Patel, FRS FMedSci MRCP, professor and lead author of the study, has observed that alcohol consumption not only leads to permanent DNA damage, but also increases the risk of developing cancer.
The research team at MRC Laboratory gave doses of ethanol to mice equivalent to a human drinking a full bottle of whisky in a compressed period of time. Some of these mice had a reduced ability to produce the enzyme that breaks down alcohol coupled with diminished DNA repair pathways. After a few weeks, they studied the DNA of the mice and found the harmful chemical compound acetaldehyde (ALDH) had built up due to the body’s processing of the large quantities of alcohol. This ALDH buildup damaged the DNA within blood stem cells, causing mutations in chromosomes which are known catalysts for cancer and the aging process.