How chemicals in shampoo,booze and car fumes cause cancer by damaging our ability to repair faults in our genes

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Scientists have discovered how a group of chemicals in everything from shampoo to booze can cause cancer.

The chemicals, known as aldehydes, are made in our body in tiny amounts and can be found everywhere in our environment.

Too much exposure to aldehydes, however, causes cancer by breaking down our ability to fix DNA, a new study has found

 

Professor Ashok Venkitaraman, lead author of the study from the University of Cambridge, said: ‘We knew aldehydes were not nice and have been linked to cancer, but we did not know they damage proteins in the cells important for preventing the DNA damage which causes cancer.

‘We don’t know how much of these chemicals we are breathing in or how long they last in the air after being produced, but aldehydes are found all over the place.’

Nose and throat cancer are particularly linked to formaldehyde, a colourless, strong-smelling gas which is used in embalming.

The study, published in the journal Cell, used genetically-engineered human cells to identify how aldehydes from pollution and other sources could cause cancer.

Researchers found the chemicals break down defence mechanisms in normal, healthy cells which help repair the damage to DNA when they divide.

Professor Venkitaraman explained that the body has two copies of the BRCA2 gene.

This gene produces a protein that helps repair DNA damage. If this damage is not repaired it can develop into cancer.

Aldehydes causes a reduction of BRCA2 protein in cells, which weakens them.

Those with the faulty gene are more at risk of developing breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancer.

Responding to the study, Paul Pharoah, professor of cancer epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, said it was important, but ‘has no immediate implications for the general public’.

 

WHAT ARE ALDEHYDES?

Aldehydes are made in our body in tiny amounts and can be found everywhere in our environment.

They used regularly in cosmetics and other products can exacerbate a faulty BRCA2 gene.

Aldehydes are also found in car exhausts, smoke and building materials.

Those with the faulty gene are more at risk of developing breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancer.

 

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