Finnish study reveals carcinogenic link to alcohol

wineTobacco and alcohol both contain similar carcinogenic substances, with the risk of cancer increased if one is vulnerable to the effects of alcohol in low doses, according to Finnish research.

Helsingin Sanomat reveals that one out of every five Finns holds a gene that can accelerate the metabolic effect of alcohol, leaving the drinker feeling unpleasant even after and during consuming small amounts. This sensation should be a warning sign to the individual that they may have a higher susceptibility to oesophageal cancer than others.

The higher risk is due to acetaldehyde, and organic chemical compound which is produced when the body breaks down alcohol. Acetaldehyde has recently been classified as a Class I level carcinogenic substance by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Finland has long studied the effects of Acetaldehyde, with the National Institute for Health and Welfare’s Peter Eriksson a world leader in acetaldehyde-related research.

“Acetaldehyde is produced from alcohol in the liver and intestines, but it is burnt nearly entirely. Acetaldehyde can also be found in saliva, produced by microbes in the oral cavity, throat, and stomach,” Eriksson states.

Alcoholic beverages also contain high levels of the substance, with clear liquor having lower content than dark spirits, although red wine and beer have lower levels than white wine. Liquors made from apples and plums have the highest concentration of carcinogenic material. Calvados, for example, has large quantities of acetaldehyde and is predominantly consumed in Normandy, where there is widespread cancer of the oesophagus, claims Eriksson.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) defines a safe amount of acetaldehyde as 0.39 milligrams per day. However, some Europeans can consume up to 112mg. Exposure lasts for up to two minutes following each gulp, and smoking causes exposure for tens of minutes at a time.

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