March 20, 2009

Alcohol greatest risk factor some cancers

Alcohol is the greatest risk factor for acetaldehyde-related cancer -- often occurring in the upper digestive tract -- Canadian researchers said.

Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Laboratory Karlsruhe in Germany said acetaldehyde is widely present in the environment, is inhaled from the air and tobacco smoke, ingested from alcohol and foods, and produced in the human body during the metabolism of alcoholic beverages.

Research indicates that this organic chemical plays a significant role in the development of certain types of cancers -- especially of the upper digestive tract -- and it is currently classified as possibly carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization, the researchers said.

The study, published in the journal Addiction, found that risk from ingesting acetaldehyde through alcoholic beverages alone may exceed usual safety limits for heavy drinkers. Their risk assessment study found that the average exposure to acetaldehyde from alcoholic beverages resulted in a life-time cancer risk of 7.6/10,000, with higher risk scenarios -- e.g., contaminations in unrecorded alcohol -- in the range of 1 in 1,000.