After consecutive months of holiday celebrations by getting wasted followed by nasty hangovers the next day…does this sound familiar to any of you? Had it ever cross your mind why your friends or you have Asian glow and others don’t? It’s been brought up before, but more recent studies have shown that having this red flush after drinking can increase risks of esophageal cancer. According to Philip J. Brooks from the Division of Metabolism and Health Affects at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, this occurs to about one-third of people from East-Asian descent; typically Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.
People with Asian glow have a genetic deficiency of an enzyme that breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde (an animal carcinogen that causes DNA damage and other cancer-promoting effects) and converting that toxic chemical into acetate. A normal individual with no genetic deficiency has no problem metabolizing the alcohol in the liver. However, the deficiency causes the alcohol to build up in the body and causing vasodilation, which increases heart rate, headache, and the flushing response.
The Mayo Clinic reported that behaviors and factors that increase esophageal cancer include drinking alcohol, acid reflux, smoking, etc. However, a person with a single copy of the deficient gene who drinks just two beers a day is up to 10 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than a person who is able to metabolize the alcohol properly.
You may make fun of your friends for their Asian glow after drinking or you may dismiss the fact that you get Asian glow and just assume that’s inevitable because you are Asian. But it may be responsible for developing one of the deadliest cancers globally.