Most East Asian people have typically facial flushing when drinking alcohol. This sign indicates a risk of esophageal cancer, so it is suggested to limit alcohol consumption.
A flushed face was caused by dilation of blood vessel, which is associated with the accumulation of toxic compounds, called Acetaldehyde. This compound is the result of alcohol metabolism, before it is processed back into a safer compound, acetate which be taken out from the body.
This symptom is experienced by nearly a third of the population in East Asia. Genetically, these ethnic groups have ALDH2 deficiency, an enzyme that responsibility in metabolizing acetaldehyde to acetate.
Due to the ALDH2 enzyme deficiency, acetaldehyde will be accumulated in the blood and cause facial flushing. Moreover, acetaldehyde is one of the carcinogens that can cause Esophageal cancer.
Philip J Brooks, a researcher from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says, an increased risk of esophageal cancer due to genetic disorders is quite high. Just only drink two glasses of alcohol a day, the risk could raise up to 10 times compared to who don’t.
Although it’s dangerous, Brooks said, not many Asian people are aware of the risk. Facial flushing after drinking alcohol was already regarded as the common sign – only affect the external appearance of the face.