Mar 26 2009
Researchers say that more evidence suggest that those who experience facial flushing after alcohol intake are also at a higher risk of developing alcohol-related esophageal cancer as compared to those who don’t. The article on this subject was written by a team headed by Dr. Philip Brooks of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism from the National Institutes of Health along with Akira Yokoyama of Japan’s Kurihama Alcohol Center.
Alcohol flushing response is a characteristic response to alcohol intake that is manifested in about a third of the East Asian population of drinkers. Aside from facial flushing, the response includes increased heart rate and nausea. The condition is brought about by a hereditary deficiency in aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2). While the public is generally aware of the existence of the flushing response, only a few are aware that this enzyme deficiency has now been found to be a risk factor for alcohol-related esophageal cancer. This is a rather unfortunate fact considering that esophageal cancer is “one of the deadliest cancers worldwide, with five-year survival rates of 15.6% in the United States, 12.3% in Europe and 31.6% in Japan,” the team that conducted the study noted.
According to the team, the article aims to inform the public, particularly healthcare professionals that patients with ALDH2 deficiency are at a higher risk for developing esophageal cancer through moderate alcohol intake. They also recommend that the alcohol flushing response be considered a “biomarker for ALDH2 deficiency.” Clinicians can easily determine the deficiency by asking the patient of flushing episodes as a result of alcohol intake.
“As a result,” the researchers write, “ALDH2 deficient patients can then be counseled to reduce alcohol consumption, and high-risk patients can be assessed for endoscopic cancer screening.” Considering that there are more than 500 million people who have this enzyme deficiency, the increased awareness on this risk can cause a world of difference in terms of reducing the cases of esophageal cancers by encouraging minimal alcohol intake.
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