PARIS - Alcohol damages the DNA of stem cells responsible for producing new blood, according to a mouse study which may explain the link between drinking and cancer, scientists said on Wednesday (Jan 3).
Health watchdogs have long warned that alcohol consumption contributes to seven types of cancer - of the mouth, throat, larynx or voice box, oesophagus or food pipe, breast, liver and bowel.
What was not well understood was: how?
For the new study, published in the science journal Nature, researchers gave lab mice diluted alcohol, known chemically as ethanol.
They then used chromosome and DNA analysis to examine genetic damage caused by acetaldehyde, a chemical produced when the body processes alcohol.
"They found that acetaldehyde can break and damage DNA within blood stem cells, leading to rearranged chromosomes and permanently altering the DNA sequences within these cells," Cancer Research UK, which helped fund the research, said in a statement.
"It is important to understand how the DNA blueprint within stem cells is damaged because when healthy stem cells become faulty, they can give rise to cancer."