Possible Link Between Alcohol Consumption And Breast Cancer
April 24, 2012

Possible Link Between Alcohol Consumption And Breast Cancer

Connie K. Ho for RedOrbit.com

A research group from the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Fragoso presented new study findings at the Experimental Biology 2012 conference in San Diego that described a connection between drinking alcohol and being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Experimental Biology is a meeting of six different scientific societies. This year´s Experimental Biology 2012 conference was sponsored by the American Association of Anatomists (AAA), the American Physiological Society (APS), the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), the American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP), the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). The conference was held in conjunction with a meeting by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which has over 12,000 members at the undergraduate and graduate level.

The team was led by María de Lourdes Rodríguez-Fragoso, who believes that a protein called CYP2E1is the direct correlation between alcohol consumption and breast cancer.

"Cells have different mechanisms to remove toxic substances, such as ethanol, the chemical name for alcohol, that represent a potential risk to them," remarked Rodríguez-Fragoso, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos in Mexico, in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, sometimes these mechanisms produce other toxic substances, including some that are associated with the development of different types of cancer."

The team found that CYP2E1 is located in the mammary epithelial cells. These are the breast cells where most breast cancers forms. The group tested ethanol with various samples that had different level of CYP2E1. Cells that had low levels of CYP2E1 were not as much affected by the ethanol treatment as cells that had higher levels of CYP2E1.

"We knew that CYP2E1 could break down ethanol and that doing so created unstable, highly reactive chemicals known as free radicals," commented Rodríguez-Fragoso in the statement.

In the project, Rodríguez-Fagoso also worked with researcher Scott Burchiel and his team from the University of New Mexico.

“Our results showed that ethanol-treated human mammary cells had an increase in free radical production, oxidative stress and the activation of cellular mechanisms that cause cells to increase their proliferation rate," explained Rodríguez-Fagoso. “"So if you are a woman who naturally expresses higher levels of CYP2E1 and you consume alcohol, you would be at a greater risk for developing breast cancer than a woman who expresses lower amounts of CYP2E1.”

A couple of months ago, the group took the study further and analyzed CYP2E1 levels in breast tissues of women who had mammaplasties. Rodríguez-Fragoso is confident that her team will be able to find a method of diagnosis focused on CYP2E1 levels.

"Preliminary results show that there is great variability in the expression of this enzyme among the analyzed samples," commented Rodríguez-Fragoso. "This means that each individual will have a different response to alcohol, and each should take different precautions to minimize their risk of developing breast cancer."

This news comes at the right time, as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that breast cancer will be a leading cause of death, with over 40,000 people dying from the epidemic and an extra 220,000 people who will be diagnosed with the illness.

"If we can prevent the development of breast cancer associated with alcohol intake by timely diagnoses of markers such as CYP2E1," noted Rodríguez-Fragoso, "then the annual numbers of new cases and deaths could be diminished significantly.”