London, May 26 : European researchers have identified two gene variants that may provide "significant" protection against alcohol linked mouth and throat cancers.
Drinkers with these two genetic variants can effectively break down alcohol into less harmful chemicals, however they are still at an increased risk of developing cancer.
Prior studies had identified a group of genes called ADH that may a key role in developing the cancers.
The new study by International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France evaluated 9,000 cases of people of similar ages and lifestyles with mouth and throat cancers, or not.
The team discovered two variants in the group of ADH genes that may lead to lower likelihood of developing cancer.
Among the heavy drinkers, one of the variants was more prominent, in line with the amount of alcohol consumed.
Drinkers with one of the gene variants can break down alcohol more than 100 times faster, which may imply that the process played an imperative role in preventing alcohol-linked throat and mouth cancer.
"This interesting piece of science, but people with these genetic variants who drink alcohol are still at higher risk of these cancers than non-drinkers," BBC quoted Hazel Nunn, from Cancer Research UK, as saying.
"More work will be needed to examine the precise role of these genetic variations in the development of cancer.
"The best practical advice for reducing the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and oesophagus remains to stop smoking and drink less alcohol.
"Alcohol is also linked to cancers of the breast, bowel and liver. The more you cut down on alcohol, the more you reduce your risk," he added.
The new study appears in journal Nature Genetics.