Researchers may have uncovered a direct relationship between alcohol consumption, aging – beginning with telomere shortening, and cancer. The results were presented during the American Association for Cancer Research 101st Annual Meeting 2010, at the Walter E. Washington Center.
Telomeres, which exist at the cellular level, are found at the end of the DNA strand, and they are important for ensuring the genetic stability of the given cells. during the aging process, telomeres shorten in length. Excessive consumption of alcohol correlates to oxidative stress and inflammation, which are both responsible for accelerating the process of
telomere shortening. Due to the fact that that shorter telomeres are thought to increase the risk of cancer, researchers expect to find that patients with alcohol-shortened telomeres are at a greater risk for getting the terminal disease.
Andrea Baccarelli, M.D., Ph.D. said that heavy alcohol users have a tendency to look disheveled, and that heavy consumption has already been associated with cancer in multiple areas of the body. The study tested 59 alcohol abusers, and 197 individuals who had an occasional drink; they found that the telomere length was nearly half as long as the length of the non-abusers. According to Baccareli, carriers of the variant genotype ADH1B are more prone to abuse alcohol and consequently suffer from shortened telomere length.