Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Second Hand Smoke and Alcohol

According to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, there is a lot more danger involved in exposure to alcohol and second-hand smoke than originally thought. In fact, the combination significantly raises the risk of liver disease.

This finding, which adds to a stack of mounting evidence, shows that tobacco smoke and alcohol are worse as a combination, beyond their individual exposure risks. Dr. Shannon Bailey, an associate professor in the UAB Department of Environmental Health Sciences, was a co-lead author on this study, published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.

“This new data is a significant finding considering the combined effect of alcohol and cigarette smoke exposures, and the implications for public health,” Bailey said. While the study was done in mice, it mimics the problem experienced by those who sit in smoky bars and consume alcohol.

This report described results with mice who were exposed to smoky air in a laboratory enclosure and then fed a liquid diet containing alcohol. These animals had 110 percent more liver fibrosis proteins than mice who breathed filtered air. Additionally, the twice-exposed mice had 65 percent more liver fibrosis proteins than mice who breathed smoky air but did not drink ethanol. (Fibrosis is scar-like tissue in the liver that can lead to cirrhosis).

Second-hand smoke kills 53,000 nonsmoking Americans every year and is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease, low birth weight and chronic lung ailments, according to the American Cancer Society. Excessive alcohol consumption is ranked as the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new study highlights the need to further probe negative biological impacts from multiple risky behaviors. It appears that our bad habits are -- when they gang up on us -- far more deadly than when we experience them one at a time.


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