Asian flush & cancer: legit risk?


I keep seeing click-baity headlines on different news sites saying that if you suffer from Asian flush (go red when you drink alcohol… I assume everyone reading this knows what I’m talking about) and continue to consume alcohol, that you are at a high(er) risk of cancer later on in your life.

Can anyone help me clear up wether this is just a myth? And if it isn’t, what’s the science behind it; what is it about Asian flush or enzyme deficiency and all that stuff that is creating the cancer risk?

Appreciate any help


Total clickbait, I don’t buy it… everything is a cancer risk these days! It’s not news that alcohol increases cancer risk.


of course alcohol increases the risk of cancer, we all know that… but there is some solid evidence pointing to people with aldh2 deficiency being at a much higher risk of certain types of cancers (especially esophageal squamous cell carcinoma)

check out this updated overview from the NIH:

interestingly, they make mention that this risk is prevalent amongst East Asian males, but does not appear to affect females.


As a female who likes a drink or two, that’s certainly a relief.

Here is a another recent 2018 study looking at the link between Asian flush and gastric cancer:

It seems in both cases the increased risk stems from the accumulation of acetaldehyde.

Does anyone know how much you have to drink for this to be a problem?


It’s not clear how much you need to drink for it to begin to be a risk. But logic would tell me that it’s a matter of degree (i.e. one drink adds some risk, 100 drinks adds more). Whether it’s linear or not who knows.

I pulled a number from one the NIH’s press releases:

Notably, these studies showed that individuals with the inactive variant who drink the equivalent of 33 or more U.S. standard drinks per week have a 89-fold increased risk of esophageal cancer compared to non-drinkers. Dr. Yokoyama is a co-author of the latest report.