It is known that the intake of alcoholic beverages may impair genetic and epigenetic regulatory events with consequent crucial effects on cell phenotypes and that its association with selected genotypes can lead to a different risk of cancer in the population. The aim of this review is to pick up selected studies on this topic and recapitulate some of the biochemical and nutrigenetic/nutrigenomic aspects involved in the impact of dietary low-dose alcohol consumption on the switching-on or -off of tumorigenic pathways. These include i) the existence of predisposing or protective human genotypes and the relationship between dietary compounds and alcohol in the promotion or inhibition of carcinogenesis; ii) the effects of other components of alcoholic drinks in the modulation of the expression of oncogenes and oncosuppressors, the autophagic flux and the onset of apoptosis, with examples of their cytospecificity; and iii) the role of alcoholic beverage consumption within particular dietary regimens, including the Mediterranean diet. Taking all the data into account, several alcohol-associated bioactive dietary compounds appear capable to modulate peculiar intracellular pathways predisposing to or protecting from cancer. Advances in the nutrigenetic, nutrigenomic and nutriepigenetic knowledge complementing the biochemical and molecular approaches will help in unveiling their impact on health outcome.
Keywords: Alcoholic beverages; Mediterranean diet; autophagy; cancer; nutrigenetics; nutrigenomics.