Reduce exposure

Prevention of acetaldehyde exposure

With regard to acetaldehyde there are many options that provide excellent possibilities for cancer prevention both at a population and individual level. Acetaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen (Group 1). The wide presence of acetaldehyde in our daily environment is rather well known. The main mechanisms regulating local acetaldehyde concentrations in the upper digestive tract are also well known.

How to act at a population level

1. The GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) –status of acetaldehyde should be reassessed

  • It is not any more based on scientific evidence

2. The use of acetaldehyde as a flavoring agent and food additive should be prohibited

3. Necessary information on the unsafety of acetaldehyde should be provided on the label to the consumer

  • Current situation violates Article 14 of the food law “Regulation (EC) No 178/2002” and the generally accepted ALARA-principle for carcinogens (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) 

4. New processes for the production of acetaldehyde free or low acetaldehyde alcoholic beverages and food should be encouraged and supported

  • This is essential for the primary prevention of acetaldehyde related upper digestive tract cancers

5. Health education on acetaldehyde should be provided for health care providers, for those in alcohol -, food -, and tobacco industry and for the consumer

  • This is crucial both for the primary and secondary prevention of acetaldehyde related cancers

How to act on individual level?

1. Avoid or decrease your tobacco and/or alcohol consumption

  • E.g. by cutting alcohol- and tobacco-related acetaldehyde exposure to half it is possible to gain over 20-fold decrease in the risk upper digestive tract cancer 

2. Don’t drink to intoxication and prefer alcoholic beverages with low ethanol concentrations

  • Higher alcohol levels in saliva associate with higher salivary acetaldehyde levels

3. Take care of good oral hygiene

  • Microbial acetaldehyde production from alcohol decreases up to 100 %

4. Avoid alcoholic beverages with high levels of free acetaldehyde

  • They result in short-term 10 - 30 -fold increase in the local acetaldehyde exposure of the oral cavity

5. Prefer acetaldehyde free food and beverages or food and beverages with low acetaldehyde concentration

  • There is new scientific evidence suggesting that fermented food and dairy products with high acetaldehyde concentration increase significantly the risk for upper digestive tract cancer

6. Pay special attention to established risk groups

  • Gene mutations, acid free stomach caused by atrophic gastritis or drugs inhibiting gastric acid secretion, and permanent Helicobacter pylori infection increase the local acetaldehyde production from alcohol in the upper digestive tract.

7. Take advantage of novel slow-release L-cysteine formulations (patented and produced by Biohit Oyj., Helsinki, Finland)

  • Eliminate effectively (60 - 90 %) of acetaldehyde derived from tobacco smoke and alcohol in the saliva and gastric juice

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