Researchers have found that a compound known as resveratrol in red wine and grape skin may prevent head and neck cancer.
Alcohol bombards our genes. The body has ways to repair this cell damage but with enough alcohol, some cells become dangerous.
“Resveratrol challenges these cells- the ones with unrepaired DNA damage are killed so they cannot go on to cause cancer. Alcohol damages cells and resveratrol kills damaged cells,” said Robert Sclafani, investigator at University of Colorado’s cancer centre.
The body metabolises alcohol by converting it first to acetyl aldehyde and then the body uses aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) to further convert it to acetic acid which is excreted.
The partially processed state of alcohol, acetyl aldehyde, is a carcinogen and produces “cross links” in DNA.
With enough alcohol, the body can get behind and end up with a backlog of acetyl aldehyde.
“Increased exposure to alcohol, loss of the ALDH gene that helps the body process alcohol, and loss of the ability to repair DNA cross links all result in increased cancer risk,” Sclafani said.
In red wine, resveratrol blocks the cancer-causing effect of alcohol.
“Resveratrol takes out the cells with the most damage- the cells that have the highest probability of being able to cause cancer,” he said.
Resveratrol, however, is not a magic bullet that can completely undo the cancer-causing effects of alcohol.
“But by killing the most dangerous cells, it may decrease the probability that alcohol use will cause cancer,” Sclafani added.