turn red from alcohol? you could be at risk of cancer

You don't know how much this news scares the crap out of me... According to new research, those whose faces turn red when they drink -- as we all know, a condition that plagues many people of Asian descent -- may have an increased risk for deadly throat cancer: Drinkers' Red Face May Signal Cancer Risk.

The flushing response, which may be accompanied by nausea and a rapid heartbeat, is caused mainly by an inherited deficiency in an enzyme called ALDH2, a trait shared by more than a third of people of East Asian ancestry. It doesn't take much -- as little as half a bottle of beer can trigger the reaction.

Those who turn red already know this. What they probably didn't know that the "Asian flush" might actually be an unusual warning sign of a serious risk of squamous cell esophageal cancer.

The enzyme deficiency results in problems in metabolizing alcohol, leading to an accumulation in the body of a toxin called acetaldehyde. People with two copies of the gene responsible have such unpleasant reactions that they are unable to consume large amounts of alcohol. This aversion actually protects them against the increased risk for cancer.

The malignancy is called squamous cell esophageal cancer, is also caused by smoking and can be treated with surgery, but survival rates are very low. Even moderate drinking increases the risk, but it rises sharply with heavier consumption. It's all in the article.

Great. You thought it was just annoying side effect of drinking. But ignoring the symptom and continuing to drink is apparently likely to increase the incidence of esophageal cancer. Not only do all these Asians have to suffer the embarrassment of turning red after drinking, we're at risk of cancer too! Damn you, body. This sucks.

angry archive