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Fri 15 Aug 2008 04:00 AM

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Slow genes up cancer risk

A major international study has discovered a link between oral cancer and the genes that metabolise alcohol.

A major international study has discovered a link between oral cancer and the genes that metabolise alcohol.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen found people's risk of developing oral cancer was linked to genes which regulate the speed at which alcohol was metabolised by the body.

The team spent five years studying patients with cancers of the mouth, larynx and oesophagus at centres throughout Europe and Central and South America. They also studied patients who were free of the disease.

Subjects with a fast-acting variant of the gene for alcohol dehydrogenase - the enzyme that breaks down alcohol - were at much lower risk of developing these cancers.

The mouth and throat are exposed to the damaging effects of alcohol for a shorter period, the team noted, with a lower chance that cancer will be initiated.

Author Dr Tatiana Macfarlane, said: "The faster you metabolise [alcohol], the lower your risk."

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