Asian flush & cancer: legit risk?


#1

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


#2

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


#3

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.


#4

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?


#5

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.