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Your lifestyle, your quirk
By now most people have come to accept that cigarettes, tanning, and other things can lead to increases in certain types of cancers, but a new study shows why your favorite happy hour delight may also be cause for concern.
Dr. Silvia Balbo of the University of Minnesota led the cancer research study, which gave 10 people doses of vodka equivalent to one, two, and three drinks once a week for three weeks and studied the effect on their bodies. Results after each dose showed DNA damage to the test subject’s oral cavity cells as a result of the vodka. Yikes!
This seems pretty scary for all of us social drinkers out there, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. See, as your body breaks down cocktails, it’s normal for it to form a chemical substance called acetaldehyde, which is similar to formaldehyde (definitely not something you want in your body!). But Balbo says the acetaldehyde doesn’t last long and quickly changes to a much less harmful substance called acetate during metabolism. The real cause for concern is that some people lack the enzyme that turns acetaldehyde into acetate, meaning that for those people, the potentially carcinogenic acetaldehyde attaches to your DNA and ups your risk of getting cancer over time. The more you drink, the more harmful the results can be as more DNA is compromised. Read more about the study here.
But most people do have the necessary enzyme, and your body seems to be able to regulate itself if you’re a moderate drinker.
"After 24 hours, the levels of DNA damage were reduced, returning to what we measured before the alcohol consumption," says Balbo. So either the enzymes fixed the problem or the body got rid of the cells that were damaged.
In this day and age, it seems like everything from the air we breathe to the hormones in the food we eat can cause cancer – and it’s probably true. It’s important to be smart about what you put into your body, but it seems impossible to avoid all the potential dangers out there. Frankly, studying ten people for three weeks doesn’t seem super conclusive to me, but it does make sense that excessive alcohol use would be damaging to your body – moderation is always my rule of thumb. It’s common knowledge that alcohol can damage your liver and other organs, so this adds another solid reason to be cautious. The American Cancer Society recommends having two drinks or less a day.
Will this study impact your drinking habits?