Molecular mechanisms of alcohol-mediated carcinogenesis

Nat Rev Cancer. 2007 Aug;7(8):599-612. doi: 10.1038/nrc2191.


Approximately 3.6% of cancers worldwide derive from chronic alcohol drinking, including those of the upper aerodigestive tract, the liver, the colorectum and the breast. Although the mechanisms for alcohol-associated carcinogenesis are not completely understood, most recent research has focused on acetaldehyde, the first and most toxic ethanol metabolite, as a cancer-causing agent. Ethanol may also stimulate carcinogenesis by inhibiting DNA methylation and by interacting with retinoid metabolism. Alcohol-related carcinogenesis may interact with other factors such as smoking, diet and comorbidities, and depends on genetic susceptibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetaldehyde / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Humans


  • Carcinogens
  • Ethanol
  • Acetaldehyde