During the summer, it’s common for us interns to have a few drinks here or there during happy hours or on weekends. And many of Asians out there, alcohol usually comes with a side of Asian glow. Unbeknowst to many, this condition can be a serious health issue. And as it turns out, simply taking Pepcid AC won’t solve this issue.
According to studies published by the Public Library of Science, people who drink but suffer from Asian glow (They can be non-Asians too!) have a far greater risk of getting cancer. Esophageal cancer, in particular, is 10x more likely for those who turn red from drinking.
For those of you unfamiliar with this glowing problem (no pun intended), what happens is that, after having one or two drinks, many Asians begin to turn red in the face. This redness can also spread to the body down to the hands and legs. A feeling of dizziness and headache as well as a faster heartbeat also arises. Doctors say that this glow is caused by a genetic deficiency that is very common among the East Asian population (around 40%). When alcohol enters your body, it is first metabolized into acetaldehyde, which is actually a carcinogen that can cause DNA damage and other cancer-promoting effects. An enzyme in the liver, called ALDH2, then turns acetaldehyde into a harmless substance called acetate, which is then further digested. But for those of you suffering from Asian blush, your body is actually lacking the ALDH2 enzyme, and acetaldehyde can actually build up in your body every time you drink!
Along with the usual health risks of alcohol, including short-term incapacitation and long-term heart risks, many AAPIs now have the added privilege of a 10-fold likelihood of developing one of the deadliest forms of cancer known to man! Now I’m not arguing for anything extreme, like prohibition. There’s nothing wrong with a few drinks occasionally. But even a steady habit as seemingly harmless as 2 drinks a day can trigger the extreme susceptibility of cancer down the line for many Asians.
So if you have Asian glow, the next time you have a drink, keep this hopefully helpful lesson in the back of your mind. It’ll be an extra disincentive for you not to drink yourself into a stupor that night. Plus it’s also an additional reason for you to not develop a drinking habit/problem.
‘Till Next Week,