Alcoholics beware! Scientists have found more reasons why you should give up on alcohol. According to the findings of a new study, alcohol can raise the risk of cancer and even cause premature aging.
Researchers at the University of Milan in Italy have found that excessive intake of alcohol causes stress and inflammation, which in turn leads to shortening of telomeres. Telomeres are the end parts of chromosomes that keep them stable.
Alcohol’s effect on biological clocks
Now, shortening of telomere is a natural process that happens with age. As a person gets older, the telomeres regress gradually, which eventually leads to cell death. But excessive consumption of alcohol accelerates this entire process of telomere shortening and damage to cells.
“All the cells in our body have a biological clock in telomeres,” noted Andrea Baccarelli, lead author of the study.
Cancer from alcohol?
Also, the shortening of telomeres is associated with increased risk of cancer. So, according to the researchers, the risk of cancer could be higher alcoholics since they have shorter telomeres.
People who abused alcohol were found to have considerably shortened telomeres. The extent of the effect of alcohol surprised the researchers as telomeres in heavy alcoholics were just about half the length of telomeres in other participants
“Heavy alcohol users tend to look haggard, and it is commonly thought that heavy drinking leads to premature aging and earlier onset of diseases of aging,” said Baccarelli, who is the head of the Centre of Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology at the University of Milan. “In particular, heavy alcohol drinking has been associated with cancer at multiple sites.”
Staggering findings in alcohol abusers
The study involved 59 participants, who were all devoted alcoholics (22 per cent of them took four or more alcoholic drinks a day) and 197 other participants, who had variable habits of alcohol consumption (including 4 per cent of those who consumed four or more alcoholic drinks a day).
People who abused alcohol were found to have considerably shortened telomeres. The extent of the effect of alcohol surprised the researchers as telomeres in heavy alcoholics were just about half the length of telomeres in other participants.
“The decrease we found in telomere length is very sharp, and we were surprised to find such a strong effect at the cellular level,” said Baccarelli.
Results of the study were presented at the 101st meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.