Alcohol can cause irreparable damage to DNA of stem cells, leading to an increase in the risk of cancer, says a new study.


The research was conducted by scientists from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK.

The new study shows that taking alcohol could have more dire effects than thought possible.

The findings, published in the journal ‘Nature’, explain a likely mechanism for why drinking alcohol is linked to seven common types of cancer including those of the breast, bowel, oesophagus, and liver.


The scientists made use of chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing of mice to examine what happens when they were given diluted alcohol.

They found that a chemical called acetaldehyde, produced when the body processes alcohol, can break and damage DNA within blood stem cells causing deletions and rearrangements in chromosomes.

Acetaldehyde could create a permanent change and is thought to potentially cause mutations responsible for cancer.


“Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells,” said Ketan Patel, a professor at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

“While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage.”

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