3 Weird Things About AcetaldehydePosted on by
By Jane Henley
- Acetaldehyde can cause cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
- The more acetaldehyde you are exposed to, the higher your cancer risk.
- 1 in 2 adults and 1 in 3 youth in the United States were exposed to acetaldehyde in the past month because they drank alcohol.
What Is Acetaldehyde?
When you drink alcohol, your body breaks it down into a chemical called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde damages your DNA and prevents your body from repairing the damage. DNA is the cell’s “instruction manual” that controls a cell’s normal growth and function. When DNA is damaged, a cell can begin growing out of control and create a cancer tumor. A toxic buildup of acetaldehyde can increase your cancer risk.
The Link Between Alcohol and Cancer May Surprise You
At least six cancers are linked to alcohol use: mouth and throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum, and breast (in women).
All types of alcoholic drinks―even red and white wine, craft beers, and cocktails―are linked with cancer. The more you drink, the higher your cancer risk. But it’s not just excessive drinkers at risk. For example, with each 10 grams of pure alcohol (less than one drink a day), a woman’s risk for breast cancer goes up 5% before menopause, and 9% after menopause.
The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of cancer. If you choose to drink, drink no more than one drink a day (for women) or no more than two drinks a day (for men).
Secret Ways to Lower Your Cancer Risk
While there is no proven way to completely prevent cancer, limiting the amount of alcohol you drink is one of the most important things you can do to lower your risk of getting cancer. There are other things you can do, too:
- Don’t use tobacco. Stay away from secondhand smoke.
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Be physically active.
- Eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Protect your skin from too much exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds.
12 comments on “3 Weird Things About Acetaldehyde”
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This article states “For example, with each 10 grams of pure alcohol (less than one drink a day), a woman’s risk for breast cancer goes up 5% before menopause, and 9% after menopause.”
This would appear to indicate that EACH INDIVIDUAL DRINK increases the risk by 5% or 9%. Is this correct? Once a pre-menopause woman hits 20 drinks, lifetime consumption, she has doubled her risk for breast cancer? So, even a woman following the no-more-than-one-drink-a-day guideline could double her cancer risk in less than a month?
Thank you for your question. The blog post is referring to alcohol drinking patterns. Compared to a woman who doesn’t drink alcohol, a woman who drinks an average of 10 grams of pure alcohol (less than one drink) per day has a 5% higher risk of getting breast cancer before menopause, and a 9% higher risk of getting breast cancer after menopause. For more information, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/alcohol/.
How does acetaldehyde do this? I thought it was the free energy in the bloodstream causedby sugar and alcohol that feeds a nascent or growing tumor… not metabolites like acetaldehyde. Please explain if possible.
Acetaldehyde damages your DNA and prevents your body from repairing the damage. DNA is the cell’s “instruction manual” that controls a cell’s normal growth and function. When DNA is damaged, a cell can begin growing out of control and create a cancer tumor. A toxic buildup of acetaldehyde can increase your cancer risk. This blog post from Cancer Research UK may help explain the process: https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2016/02/09/how-does-alcohol-cause-cancer/
If the DNA is damaged can it correct itself if alcohol is omitted
Thanks for your question. Yes, your body’s cells try to repair the DNA damage caused by alcohol. Acetaldehyde both damages DNA and interferes with your cells’ ability to repair the damage. Reducing alcohol may stop further damage and give your body a chance to repair itself.
If for example a person only drank bourbon that was at (50-60% alcohol / 100-120 proof) vs someone who drank beer at a much lower proof (say 10% Alcohol /20 proof), does that mean that person drinking bourbon is exposed to 5-6 times the amount of Acetaldehyde vs the Beer Drinker? I’m sure everybodys body is different but how does that work?
Also, are there any studies on how quickly a throat type cancer has or can occur in heavy drinkers, example 4yrs, 15yrs, etc.. This is tough to estimate just curious what the studies may show?
It depends on how much Bourbon and how much beer. One bottle/can beer is 12 oz; 1 shot of bourbon is 1.5 oz. Both have the same amount of alcohol. If you were to drink a 12 oz beer glass worth of bourbon, it’s actually EIGHT shots, so 8 beers worth, not 5-6 times.
People usually consume much, much more total alcohol when they drink bourbon and hard liquor as part of a routine as opposed to beer. Drinking 4 beers, 48 oz of liquid, that’s abnormal consuming of beverages in general. But 12 oz; is not, and if its 80 proof liquor that’s a high level of intoxication.
I am a recovered alcoholic with 16 years of sobriety. I worry about acetaldehyde in vaping and ‘safe’ nicotine products. Its in tobacco and added to other products because it increases the dopamine payoff, makes tobacco and vaping more addictive than nicotine alone.
Just wanted to say thanks for posting this. I feel like this is something everyone should know before drinking, but it seems like most people are not aware of this. If they were, maybe they would consume less alcohol, if any at all, given the cancer risk and destruction to DNA.
Why does the article specify “craft beer” and not reference just “beer?” Is the author suggesting that beer designated as craft is singled out as categorically more dangerous than macro beer?
Two or three times a year, I go to a wine tasting for social reasons. This might involve four or five small glasses of wine or champagne. Other than that, I do not drink. Is there a serious risk in this activity for cancer or cardiac arrhythmia. I am in my late sixties and in excellent health.
I would surmise that you have more risk of dying in the car ride to the wine tasting than dying from the cancer triggered by the minimal alcohol consumption two or three times a year!
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