University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Interaction of alcohol and smoking in the pathogenesis of upper digestive tract cancers - possible chemoprevention with cysteine
Doctoral dissertation, April 2006.
Background: Alcohol consumption and smoking are the main causes of upper digestive tract cancers. These risk factors account for over 75% of all cases in developed countries. Epidemiological studies have shown that alcohol and tobacco interact in a multiplicative way to the cancer risk, but the pathogenetic mechanism behind this is poorly understood. Strong experimental and human genetic linkage data suggest that acetaldehyde is one of the major factors behind the carcinogenic effect. In the digestive tract, acetaldehyde is mainly formed by microbial metabolism of ethanol. Acetaldehyde is also a major constituent of tobacco smoke. Thus, acetaldehyde from both of these sources may have an interacting carcinogenic effect in the human upper digestive tract.
Aims: The first aim of this thesis was to investigate acetaldehyde production and exposure in the human mouth resulting from alcohol ingestion and tobacco smoking in vivo. Secondly, specific L-cysteine products were prepared to examine their efficacy in the binding of salivary acetaldehyde in order to reduce the exposure of the upper digestive tract to acetaldehyde.
Methods: Acetaldehyde levels in saliva were measured from human volunteers during alcohol metabolism, during tobacco smoking and during the combined use of alcohol and tobacco. The ability of L-cysteine to eliminate acetaldehyde during alcohol metabolism and tobacco smoking was also investigated with specifically developed tablets. Also the acetaldehyde production of Escherichia coli - an important member of the human microbiota - was measured in different conditions prevailing in the digestive tract.
Results and conclusions: These studies established that smokers have significantly increased acetaldehyde exposure during ethanol consumption even when not actively smoking. Acetaldehyde exposure was dramatically further increased during active tobacco smoking. Thus, the elevated aerodigestive tract cancer risk observed in smokers and drinkers may be the result of the increased acetaldehyde exposure. Acetaldehyde produced in the oral cavity during ethanol challenge was significantly decreased by a buccal L-cysteine -releasing tablet. Also smoking-derived acetaldehyde could be totally removed by using a tablet containing L-cysteine. In conclusion, this thesis confirms the essential role of acetaldehyde in the pathogenesis of alcohol- and smoking-induced cancers. This thesis presents a novel experimental approach to decrease the local acetaldehyde exposure of the upper digestive tract with L-cysteine, with the eventual goal of reducting the prevalence of upper digestive tract cancers.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 07.04.2006