Health

Mice study shows link between alcohol and cancer

Alcohol damages the DNA of stem cells responsible for producing new blood, according to a study which may explain the link between drinking and cancer, scientists said.

Health watchdogs have long warned that alcohol consumption contributes to seven types of cancer - of the mouth, throat, larynx or voice box, oesophagus or food pipe, breast, liver and bowel.

For the new study, published in the science journal Nature, researchers gave lab mice diluted alcohol, known chemically as ethanol. They then used chromosome and DNA analysis to examine genetic damage caused by acetaldehyde, a chemical produced when the body processes alcohol.

"They found that acetaldehyde can break and damage DNA within blood stem cells, leading to rearranged chromosomes and permanently altering the DNA sequences within these cells," Cancer Research UK, which helped fund the research, said.

"It is important to understand how the DNA blueprint within stem cells is damaged because when healthy stem cells become faulty, they can give rise to cancer."

The team also examined how the body fights against alcohol damage using a family of enzymes called ALDH. They turn acetaldehyde into acetate, which cells can use as energy.

Millions of people - particularly from South-east Asia - either lack these enzymes or carry faulty versions, said the team. And mice lacking ALDH, given alcohol, suffered four times as much DNA damage.

"Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers," said the study's lead author Ketan Patel of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. - AFP


Yoga may offer relief for menopausal women

Menopausal women who practice yoga may experience more relief from symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes than their peers who don't do this type of exercise, a review of existing research suggests.

The study team examined data on 1,306 women in 13 different clinical trials that randomly assigned some participants to practise yoga and others to get no treatment or to try a different type of intervention such as health education or other forms of exercise. All of the women suffered from menopause symptoms at the beginning of the trials.

Menopausal women can experience symptoms ranging from vaginal dryness to mood swings, joint pain and insomnia.

In the current study, yoga was better than other types of exercise for so-called vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Yoga was also better for overall menopause symptoms than health education. - REUTERS

MEDICAL & HEALTH