Acetaldehyde in alcohol is no longer a chemical that causes hangover, for scientists have found new evidence that it can also lead to cancer.
Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Germany show that drinking alcohol is the greatest risk factor for acetaldehyde-related cancer.
They also said that heavy drinkers might be at increased risk due to exposure from multiple sources.
The research has indicated that acetaldehyde plays a significant role in the development of certain types of cancers, especially of the upper digestive tract.
Recently, the researchers provided the necessary methodology for calculating the risk for the ingestion of alcoholic beverages.
It was found that risk from ingesting acetaldehyde via alcoholic beverages alone might exceed usual safety limits for heavy drinkers.
The researchers conducted a risk assessment study, which found that the average exposure to acetaldehyde from alcoholic beverages resulted in a lifetime cancer risk of 7.6/10,000, with higher risk scenarios (e.g. contaminations in unrecorded alcohol) in the range of 1 in 1,000.
Already, the lifetime cancer risks for acetaldehyde from ingestion of alcoholic beverages greatly exceed the usual limits for cancer risks from the environment.
However, the researchers saw that this risk is compounded by the addition of acetaldehyde exposure from different sources.
"The problem with acetaldehyde has been that although it has been recognized as toxic by Health Canada some years ago, most risk assessments to date were based on one source of exposure only. This has led to a negligence of the overall risk " explained Dr. Jurgen Rehm, the lead scientist of the study.