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article imageEveryday chemical in new cancer risk

By Tim Sandle     Jun 18, 2017 in Health
A new study highlights a concern with byproducts of alcohol (called aldehydes). These chemicals can, under certain conditions, trigger cancer by altering the ability of human cells to repair damaged DNA.
The reason for the focus on aldehydes is because most people are exposed to the chemicals every day. Aldehydes are found in vehicle exhaust, as well as products like shampoos, glue, together with a variety of building materials.
An aldehyde is an organic compound consisting of a carbonyl center (a carbon double-bonded to oxygen) with the carbon atom also bonded to hydrogen and to a generic alkyl or side chain. Aldehydes are common in organic chemistry and many fragrances are aldehydes. Examples include formaldehyde (methanal); ethanol; propanal; butyraldehyde (butanal); and vanillin.
The exploration of aldehydes and cancer has been carried out in the U.K. by the University of Cambridge. With this researchers have examined the chemical’s behavior on breast cancer cells that have a mutation in the BRCA2 gene (which is involved with DNA repair). Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes raise the risk of a woman developing breast and ovarian cancer.
With this the study found that aldehydes interfere with DNA repair. The chemical functions to degrade the BRCA2 protein in cells. This closes down the cell’s ability to repair damage to the DNA. Speaking with Laboratory Roots Dr. Ashok Venkitaraman summarizes: "Our study shows how chemicals to which we are increasingly exposed in our day-to-day lives may increase the risk of diseases like cancer.”
The researcher added: “It also helps to explain why 'the faults in our stars' — namely the faulty genes we are born with — could make some people particularly sensitive to the cancer-causing effects of these chemicals.”
The risk is greater with people who only have one functioning copy of BRCA2 in the cells. Most people are born with two copies of BRCA2. However, around 1 in 100 have a mutation that results in one copy of the gene being inactive. In these cases the risks of aldehydes trigger cancer are elevated.
While the study showed this, the research was undertaken on cell culture. The findings, therefore, may not apply in the same way in a human being. However, they do suggest the need for further research. The research is published in the journal Cell, under the heading “A class of environmental and endogenous toxins induces BRCA2 haploinsufficiency and genome instability.”
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