Alcohol consumption is known to be a risk factor for developing cancer. Compared to obvious causes like tobacco where one is exposed to known carcinogens, I don't see an obvious mechanism by which alcohol consumption would increase the risk of cancer.

Is there anything known about the mechanisms by which alchohol consumption affects cancer risk?

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    $\begingroup$ Am I missing something here or is it just for the rather obvious reason that alcohol is a strong cell toxin that, taken often, causes constant low-level inflammation and stress (and thus accumulating damage) in tissues? $\endgroup$ – Konrad Rudolph Jan 4 '13 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ Our pharmacology course taught alcohol essentially as "is an extremely unspecific molecule and doesn't really bind to anything, but we take it in doses high enough to drive random reactions everywhere" (its effects start at mM concentrations, 1000x higher than drugs tend to). It's tiny so I don't see a barrier preventing entry into the nucleus and randomly reacting with DNA. $\endgroup$ – Armatus Apr 5 '13 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ Asian Glow is linked with cancer. Actually tackling alchol related cancer is a fairly hot topic these days. $\endgroup$ – bobthejoe Apr 9 '13 at 10:28

There aren't many studies which associate between alcohol consumption and cancer to my knowledge. The association is more with metabolic diseases because the liver is affected.

Alcohol is oxidised to acetaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase. Acetaldehyde may also, in turn affect the cells by DNA damage if it is not metabolized quickly to acetyl-CoA (perhaps in a manner similar to formaldehyde or by formation of Schiff's base with nucleotides). The other way by which alcohol is metabolised is through cytochrome-p450 (CYP2E1) which produces ROS (Hydrogen Peroxide), that may lead to carcinogenesis.

You might want to check this review.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site. It would be great if you could provide citations for your statements if possible (e.g., low correlation between alcohol consumption and cancer). $\endgroup$ – kmm Apr 5 '13 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @kmm.. corrected :) $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Apr 5 '13 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ I agree damaged is caused by acetaldehyde (also the cause of asian glow) but I believe that your selected enzyme is incorrect. $\endgroup$ – bobthejoe Apr 9 '13 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ yeah.. i mixed it up slightly .. but cyt-p450 is also involved.. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Apr 9 '13 at 10:29

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