Tra­di­tional beer linked to can­cer

Lesotho Times - - Health -

CAPE TOWN — New re­search has es­tab­lished a link be­tween the con­sump­tion of home-brewed tra­di­tional beer and oe­sophageal can­cer.

The beer had been as­so­ci­ated with in­creased risk of can­cer, but a new study has shown for the first time that the drink con­tains car­cino­gens.

The study ap­pears in the latest is­sue of the South African Med­i­cal Jour­nal.

Re­searchers from Wits Univer­sity have linked the in­ci­dence of oe­sophageal squa­mous cell car­ci­noma (SCC) in black South Africans to car­cino­genic ni­trosamines (chem­i­cal com­pounds) found in tra­di­tional beer, com­monly known as Umqom­bothi.

Analysing can­cer records over a pe­riod of al­most a cen­tury — be­tween 1912 to 2010 — re­searchers linked the can­cer to a ma­jor di­etary change at the turn of the 20th cen­tury where black peo­ple changed their sta­ple diet from sorghum to maize. Maize, par­tic­u­larly fer­mented maize, used in tra­di­tional beer, has been linked to the high in­ci­dence of oe­sophageal squa­mous cell carci- noma due to the fun­gus Fusar­ium monil­i­forme, which grows freely on maize, but less so on sorghum.

Tox­ins pro­duced by this fun­gus cause a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion in the maize, re­sult­ing in the oc­cur­rence of car­cino­genic ni­trosamines.

Re­searchers an­a­lysed tra­di­tional maize beer spec­i­mens. Us­ing molec­u­lar dock­ing stud­ies to de­ter­mine the in­ter­ac­tion of ni­trosamines and pro­tein that is found in the oe­sophageal wall, they found all six 20ml sam­ples tested con­tained car­cino­gens NDMA, NDEA and NPYR.

Re­searchers said while these com­pounds had been shown to pro­duce can­cer ex­per­i­men­tally, up to now there had been no con­clu­sive ev­i­dence to show that they were car­cino­genic to hu­mans.

In 2009, the United States En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency listed these ni­trosamines as “prob­a­bly car­cino­genic to hu­mans”.

The re­searchers also an­a­lysed the re­sults of can­cer records from the South African In­sti­tute for Med­i­cal Re­search, which showed that even though there were no doc­u­mented cases of this form of can­cer among the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion be­tween 1912 and 1927, there had been an in­crease in oe­sophageal can­cer in the 1930s with an av­er­age of four cases a year.

This num­ber in­creased over time, and be­tween 1940 and 1949 more than 160 cases of oe­sophageal can­cer were recorded. The fig­ures peaked in 1987, reach­ing 255 cases.

The num­bers started to de­cline af­ter 1987, and for the past 10 years there has been an av­er­age of 41 cases a year — a pe­riod which is linked to the di­min­ished con­sump­tion of tra­di­tional beer due to the in­creased avail­abil­ity of other sources of liquor.

Lead re­searcher and Pro­fes­sor of Phar­ma­ceu­tics, Vi­ness Pil­lay said: “The premise of the cur­rent study is that car­cino­genic ni­trosamines in the fun­gal-in­fected tra­di­tional maize-brewed beer are the cause of squa­mous cell car­ci­noma of the oe­soph­a­gus.

“Based on a com­par­i­son with the N-ni­trosamine mix stan­dards, NDMA, NPYR and NDEA, all car­cino­genic ni­trosamines, were iden­ti­fied in the tra­di­tional beer sam­ples.”

He said the study was the first to demon­strate car­cino­genic ni­trosamines in tra­di­tional beer.

— Cape Argus.

Re­search has found that

is linked to can­cer.

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