Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Could Excessive Friday Night Drinking Lead to Cancer?

Typically college students spend their weekends partying. This social environment can lead to excessive drinking and alcohol consumption problems. We've heard that too much drinking can affect your liver and kidneys but today was the first time I heard it can affect the structure of your telomeres. What is the big concern? Well, your telomeres are important to the genetic stability of your cells. The telomeres are already shortening as age progresses due to the natural processes of the body which makes the genetic information in the cells less stable normally. Recent research has shown that excessive alcohol consumption could increase the progression of these telomeres shortening more rapidly that normal. This idea makes you wonder if the telomeres shortening is what makes heavy drinkers typically appear older than they really are. When cells are less stable due to telomeres shortening there is a greater risk of genetic mutations, which is the main cause of many cancer types.

In a recent article, " Excessive Alcohol Consumption May Lead to Increased Cancer Risk" the author describes current research lead by Andrea Baccarelli, M.D, Ph. D. who is the head of the Center of Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology , Ca' Granda Hospital Foundation at the University of Milan, Italy. Baccarelli currently is involved in research testing the relation of excessive drinking to shortening of telomeres. She preformed Polymerase Chain Reaction testing or PCR on all of her participants. This group was divided into people who abused alcohol and people who have variable alcohol consumption. To eliminate many variables this group were all similar in age, environment, diet, and other factors related to their everyday life. After testing results showed that the length of the telomeres where dramatically shorter in those participants who were excessive drinkers.

I was interested to see the results of this study. You always here of smoking being a lead cause in some cancer types and now excessive alcohol drinking is coming more serious in other ways the alcoholism. This article isn't saying that having one drink is going to cause your telomeres to dramatically shorten and cause a genetic mutation. This article is more of a warning that alcoholism can pose as a greater risk to health than we may have thought. So think twice before you drink that whole bottle of vodka next weekend it may not be worth it.


By Valerie Silva


  1. I had heard about this on the regular local news and was pretty blown away. Fist off to hear the news talk about telomeres was novel, but also because as i thought about it, it made sense. I have noticed through interactions with patients in health care setting, that those with a history or alcohol abuse look older than their stated age. I always chalked it up to processing that much toxin is generally rough on the body. It is really interesting that they have now linked it to telomere length. Telomere length has already been linked to aging. For instance, Dolly, everyone's favorite cloned sheep, died young and developed arthritis and lung disease much earlier than she should have. Her DNA was cloned from an adult sheep so she was born a baby with telomeres which had been shortened to that adult length. Neat stuff.

    By Chris Bonci

  2. Very interesting article, I read many articles that support this idea. Excessive drinking has been associated with many health problems, I read one article four years ago that drinking alcohol in excessive amount can promote some type of throat or neck cancer, and off course we hear a lot about liver cancer and alcohol.

    Posted by Anna Moreno

  3. Chris that was an interesting article about Dolly. It would make sense that the by the nuclear transfer the baby would start off with already shortened telomeres. I wonder if people considered this when the idea of Dolly even came about or if this is a new theory that is now answering some questions.I also read about rapid aging diesases such as Progeria being linked to telomere length degrading.
    -Valerie Silva-

  4. That article interests me. There are many other articles or studies out there that suggest many health problems but I've never heard of one that had such drastic findings. Mainly when alcoholism is addressed as a health concern you hear about liver function or mental stability (depression, anxiety, ect.) so to hear that there is even a deeper issue at hand it just useful knowledge.

    Jennifer Kalisz

  5. This is not good news. The problem with over drinking among young people, most notably college students is legendary. I am sure anyone reading this article can relate to a night of going over the line as far as drinking is concerned. However to hear that over drinking can lead to damage of the bodies telomeres is very dissapointing. That is no joke, and can lead to multiple health problems in the future. This study is frightining, I feel if this is not a good reason to not drink excessivly, then nothing is.

  6. I agree that drinking is a severe problem on campuses and that something needs to be done. Unfortunately I don't believe that this is going to deter people from drinking anymore than recent studies on cigarette smoking has deterred people from smoking. The many carcinogens in cigarettes is known to mess up with cell programming and most importantly with the pathways that are supposed to suppress tumors and trigger normal cell death. If anything, at least spreading the word will get the knowledge out there and help those who are willing to listen.

    Posted by Charly Almonte

  7. This article not only shows the negative impact of excessive alcohol consumption, but also the importance of telomeres. Telomere length, as stated in the article, has a lot to do with various health problems (like cancer). With cancer being one of the most prevalent, incurable diseases around, I think the scientific community needs to completely understand telomeres. It seems that with an extensive understanding of the nature of telomeres, scientists may get closer to a cure.

    Posted by Matt Grazewski

  8. This is a very interesting aritcle indeed. I had no idea that telomeres played a role in cancer, but then again I know nothing in genetics or molecular biology. The fact that the article uses cancer as the sole affect of alcoholism has a deep impact. In the study I wish they included different groups such as age groups fresh out of college that have drank their livers away or have not been a huge partier. I guess I am looking for how much consumption this would take to shorten telomeres and for how long it would need to occur.

    Posted by Amanda Hostetter

  9. Anything taken to an extreme has its adverse effects, but with moderations it may have some ways of benefiting health. I was wondering what is the mechanism that occurs to shorten the telomeres? If only this was made more aware of in Universities around especially UMass.

    Posted by Vinh Tran


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