Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Red face syndrome more serious than first thought?

You know how it is: You're out with a bunch of friends (of varying ethnicity). You down a couple of drinks and someone looks at you asks "Have you been out in the sun?"

Yes, the dreaded Asian Red Face strikes again. But on a more serious note, the New York Times reports that Red Face Syndrome isn't just a cause of embarrassing photos, in some cases it might be related to an increase risk of oesophageal cancer:

The flushing response, which may be accompanied by nausea and a rapid heartbeat, is caused mainly by an inherited deficiency in an enzyme called ALDH2, a trait shared by more than a third of people of East Asian ancestry — Japanese, Chinese or Koreans. As little as half a bottle of beer can trigger the reaction.

The deficiency results in problems in metabolizing alcohol, leading to an accumulation in the body of a toxin called acetaldehyde.

People with two copies of the gene responsible have such unpleasant reactions that they are unable to consume large amounts of alcohol. This aversion actually protects them against the increased risk for cancer.

But those with only one copy can develop a tolerance to acetaldehyde and become heavy drinkers.

It seems that the most at risk group are those who used to go red very easily early in their lives but who now don't - as this suggests they have lost the 'early warning system' of going red.

As ever, the safest response for Asian drinkers would seem to be 'everything in moderation'. Keep your alcohol consumption down overall (less than 16 drinks a week) and you'll reduce the risk of cancer significantly.


Yin said...

eeek I get the red face syndrome. Its so damn annoying.

But hey, if its protecting me from cancer...

Row said...

I get very red from just a small amount of booze so I just don't drink anymore. You look like a total idiot when you sit there, bright bright red, glowing. I used to do it (uni days) and you just look like a clown. You don't need booze baby to have a good time !