There is a growing body of research indicating that people with Asian flush are in a high risk category for certain cancers and alcohol related secondary hypertension. There is also evidence to suggest a lower risk when it comes to alcoholism susceptibility.
A press release put out by the World Health Organization in 2009 publicly announced acetaldehyde as having received classification as a Group 1 carcinogen by the IARC. Substances in Group 1 are, for the most part, considered carcinogenic to humans and are “directly involved in causing cancer”.
A genetic predisposition to acetaldehyde build-up from alcohol consumption is one of the main causes of Asian flush, hence the heightened cancer risk for people with this condition. This specific risk was highlighted in a press release by the US Department of Health and Human Services, citing epidemiological studies that found ALDH2 deficient drinkers to be 6 to 10 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than people with normally functioning ALDH2 enzymes.
Other studies by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism have linked alcohol related acetaldehyde to cancers of the respiratory and upper digestive tracts, liver, colon, rectum and breast.
Find out more about the Asian flush cancer risk.
Whilst there is evidence to suggest that alcohol usage is a contributor to hypertension, the exact reason why is unknown. In this regard, it is suggested that this could be a the causal link between incidence of coronary issues and stroke among heavy alcohol users. Moreover, whether or not ALDH2 deficient Asian flush sufferers are at an increased risk is also lacking substantial evidence.
That said, studies have hypothesized that the link between alcohol consumption and hypertension may be the result of a blood pressure rebound during periods of detoxification. This is because our body typically experiences a lowered blood pressure during periods of alcohol toxicity and, it is suggested, perhaps the rebound in blood pressure can cause hypertension in heavy drinkers. This is particularly relevant because of the link between acetaldehyde toxicity and lowered blood pressure. To the extent that this hypothesis is true, it can be said that an Asian flush related deficiency in metabolizing acetaldehyde may contribute to a higher risk of hypertension and related problems.
To date there is one supporting study coming out of Chungnam National University School of Medicine, where researchers observed a lower threshold value for alcohol related hypertension in ALDH2 deficient samples. However, to our knowledge this study has not yet been verified nor replicated.
It has been suggested that ALDH2 deficient individuals may be in a lower risk category for alcoholism, which is another term for alcohol addiction. Evidence for this is merely due to the existence of a drug called Disulfiram that is commonly prescribed to alcoholics. The mechanism of this drug is to inhibit the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme in the patient, in the same way as Asian flush sufferers, and essentially render them unable to metabolize acetaldehyde. It is thought that the unpleasant symptoms that this causes is sufficient to deter the patient from continuing to feed their addiction.