Scientists have found new evidence that acetaldehyde in alcohol doesn’t just cause hangover but also cancer.

Researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Germany show that drinking alcohol is the greatest risk factor for acetaldehyde-related cancer and that heavy drinkers might be at increased risk due to exposure from multiple sources.

The research has indicated that acetaldehyde plays a significant role in the development of certain types of cancers, especially of the upper digestive tract.

A new methodology for calculating the risk for the ingestion of alcoholic beverages found that risk from ingesting acetaldehyde via alcoholic beverages alone might exceed usual safety limits for heavy drinkers.

The risk assessment study found that the average exposure to acetaldehyde from alcoholic beverages resulted in a lifetime cancer risk of 7.6/10,000, with higher risk scenarios (e.g. contaminations in unrecorded alcohol) in the range of 1 in 1,000.

The lifetime cancer risk for acetaldehyde from ingestion of alcoholic beverages greatly exceeds the usual limits for cancer risks from the environment.

The only problem with acetaldehyde is that although it has been recognized as toxic by Health Canada some years ago, most risk assessments to date were based on one source of exposure only. This has led to a negligence of the overall risk.