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.


Have to throw the obligatory remark in here for anyone coming across this thread: none of what you read here is medical advice. Please consult a registered health practitioner regarding diagnosis/advice/symptoms/risks of cancer and aldh2 deficiency, or anything discussed here.

That being said, I’ve been going on a bit of a deep-dive myself regarding this whole Asian flush–>cancer thing . I’m currently putting together my own findings, will share here when I have some solid conclusions.


I believe it is legit. I havnt seen a study as yet that didnt find a massively increased risk of cancer of the head and neck which was in direct correlation to the amount of alcohol consumed (in both flushing and non flushing drinkers) The risk of contracting oesaphagus cancer in a flusher who drinks heavily is 70-80 times higher than in those who abstain from alcohol, a heavy drinker who doesnt flush has only 15 -20 times hgiher risk of contracting oesaphagus cancer from heavy drinking compared to non drinkers. Even 4 units a week increases risk of oesapahgus cancer in flushers


You’re right, it is hard to find a study that has not found a link to cancer. The US and the French based International Agency for Research on Cancer have issued press release warnings for people with ALDH2 deficiency (Asian flush), but it certainly has not gained any traction. I wonder how the Asian nation governments are handling these findings or whether they are at all aware of this significant risk?


I think there is extremely little awareness. I am on erasmus right now and everyone is going out partying every week and theres lots of asian students who go red and are drinking entire bottles of wine with all the other students, many of them always make jokes about the fact theyre going red but either dont know or care about the cancer risk