This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
A question from Taiwan: Chung-Li wants
to know why his face turns red when he drinks alcohol.
This effect called facial flushing is a
common reaction to alcohol among East Asians. It affects an estimated
thirty-six percent of Japanese, Chinese and Koreans. The reaction is also known
as "Asian flush" or "Asian glow."
For many, even a small amount of alcohol
can cause unpleasant effects. Most commonly, their face, neck and sometimes
their whole body turns red. People might also feel lightheaded and sick to
their stomach. They might experience a burning sensation, increased heart rate,
shortness of breath and headaches.
cause is a genetic difference that they are born with called an ALDH2
deficiency. It prevents their bodies from processing alcohol the way other people
the effects might be more serious than just a red face. Researchers warn of a link
between this condition and an increased risk of cancer of the esophagus from
drinking alcohol. A new report appeared in March in the journal PLoS Medicine,
published by the Public Library of Science.
The more alcohol that people with this deficiency drink,
the greater their risk. In Japan and South Korea, for example, many people have
the deficiency but still drink heavily. Researchers found that these drinkers
develop a form of esophageal cancer six to ten times more often than those
without the deficiency.
cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. It can be treated when found early, but
once it grows the chances of survival drop sharply.
researchers estimate that at least five hundred forty million people have the
deficiency, about eight percent of the world.
Brooks is a researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism in the United States. He says it is important to educate people
about the link between the alcohol flushing effect and esophageal cancer.
He says doctors should ask East Asian patients about
their experiences with facial flushing after drinking alcohol. Those with a
history of it should be advised to limit their alcohol use. They should also be
warned that cigarette smoking works with the alcohol in a way that further
increases the risk of esophageal cancer.
And that's the VOA Special English
Health Report, written by June Simms. Archives are at voaspecialenglish.com.
I'm Steve Ember.