While the occasional social drink or glass of wine at dinner may make little difference in aging or overall health, increased consumption of alcohol can lead to both premature aging and cancer. Drinking enough to qualify you as a candidate for AA meetings has long been shown to be detrimental, to your liver, waistline, brain, breasts, and a fetus. A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research adds the big “C” to that list.
“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. In particular, heavy alcohol drinking has been associated with cancer at multiple sites,” stated research leader Andrea Bacarelli.
The research focused on the telomere, a repetitive DNA region on a chromosome. Shortened telomere action is linked to the incidence of cancer in humans. When comparing the serum DNA of alcohol abusers along with occasional drinkers, the researchers found that telomere lengths were dramatically shortened in the heavy drinkers, being about half as long as the non-abusers.
While aging naturally causes a shortening of the telomere, alcohol adds additional oxidative strain and inflammation and speeds up the process, increasing the cancer risk and causing premature aging and death of cells.