Does Asian Flush Cause Cancer?

There is new research showing that there may be a connection between Asian flush and cancer. If you have the condition alcohol flush reaction (more commonly known as Asian flush), you’ll already be familiar with the symptoms – red and puffy skin, itching, sunburn like burning, dizziness, and even nausea are all common symptoms of alcohol flush reaction. I know what you’re thinking, not only can I not enjoy something simple like a glass of wine or a couple beers, now I’ve got to worry about cancer? It’s not so cut and dry.

Asian flush is the result of a genetic mutation which can be passed down between generations. Those with the gene causing the condition are deficient in ALDH2, an enzyme that is responsible for part of the metabolism-process of alcohol. Toxic byproducts which occur during metabolisms are usually broken down into non-toxic substances by the enzyme, therefore, when they are left to collect in and be absorbed by the body, the embarrassing symptoms of a red swollen face, hives, and general uncomfortable feelings appear.

There may not necessarily be a link between your Asian flush and cancer however. Not all people who suffer from alcohol flush reaction are at risk. Researchers have discovered that it is possible to have one, or two of the gene which causes Asian flush. Those with a single copy experience the worst of the symptoms and are generally steered away from alcoholic substances and therefore less at a risk for cancer. However, those with two copies of the gene are able to overcome these symptoms and may actually develop a acetaldehyde dependency (Acetaldehyde is the name of that toxic byproduct). These individuals are not only more at risk of becoming addicted to alcohol, but because of the prolonged exposure to the carcinogenic acetaldehyde, are more at risk for developing throat cancer. This type of throat cancer is they same type that smokers may develop.

This is important to know because in recent years, there has been some development in the area of Asian flush prevention. Various OTC drugs and formulas have been developed to treat the symptoms of alcohol flush reaction, all under the flag of “prevent Asian flush”. However, these may only prevent the symptoms, and not treat the actual condition. Certain drugs like antacids may stop the glowing, redness, and nausea, but they do not prevent the build-up of acetaldehyde in the body. Because of the lack of official research into these methods is still in the infant stages, it’s difficult to tell what any long-term effects may be. I say “official” research because most of the “research” done is by the young Asian community executing trial-and-error drinking sessions with their friends and then posting the results in online forums.

This however can also be considered good news for some who tend to disbelieve or are sceptical of such studies. It seems that although the two have been connected in some studies, Asian flush and cancer are not completely inseparable. After all, these days almost anything can be linked to cancer, and the lack of research into the connection between Asian flush and cancer means that for the time being you can continue to drink without worrying about what the scientists in their lab coats are saying.

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