Alcohol and colorectal cancer: the role of alcohol dehydrogenase 1C polymorphism

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2009 Mar;33(3):551-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2008.00868.x. Epub 2008 Dec 19.


Background: Chronic alcohol consumption is a risk factor for colorectal cancer. Animal experiments as well as genetic linkage studies in Japanese individuals with inactive acetaldehyde dehydrogenase leading to elevated acetaldehyde concentrations following ethanol ingestion support the hypothesis that acetaldehyde may be responsible for this carcinogenic effect of alcohol. In Caucasians, a polymorphism of alcohol dehydrogenase 1C (ADH1C) exists resulting in different acetaldehyde concentrations following ethanol oxidation.

Methods: To evaluate whether the association between alcohol consumption and colorectal tumor development is modified by ADH1C polymorphism, we recruited 173 individuals with colorectal tumors diagnosed by colonoscopy and 788 control individuals without colorectal tumors. Genotyping was performed using genomic DNA extracted from whole blood followed by polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Genotype ADH1C*1/1 was more frequent in patients with alcohol-associated colorectal neoplasia compared to patients without cancers in the multivariate model controlling for age, gender, and alcohol intake (odds ratio = 1.674, 95% confidence interval = 1.110-2.524, 2-sided p from Wald test = 0.0139). In addition, the joint test of the genetic effect and interaction between ADH1C genotype and alcohol intake (2-sided p = 0.0007) indicated that the difference in ADH1C*1 polymorphisms between controls and colorectal neoplasia is strongly influenced by the alcohol consumption and that only individuals drinking more than 30 g ethanol per day with the genotype ADH1C*1/1 had an increased risk for colorectal tumors.

Conclusions: These data identify ADH1C homozygosity as a genetic risk marker for colorectal tumors in individuals consuming more than 30 g alcohol per day and emphasize the role of acetaldehyde as a carcinogenic agent in alcohol-related colorectal carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetaldehyde / metabolism
  • Adenoma / genetics*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Carcinoma / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Risk Factors


  • ADH1C protein, human
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase
  • Acetaldehyde