People whose faces turn red when they drink alcohol are at greater risk of gullet cancer
Scientists have discovered that people whose faces flush when they drink alcohol have an increased risk of developing gullet cancer.
The reddening of the face is caused by deficiency of an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2). Researchers say that there is accumulating evidence that people deficient in ALDH2, who drink alcohol, are at much higher risk of developing oesophageal cancer.
Around 8 per cent of the population have the deficiency, mostly people of East-Asian descent, according to a report by the BBC.
Scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, working with Japanese colleagues, estimate that people with the ALDH2 deficiency are 6-10 times more likely to develop oesophageal cancer than others who drink the same amount of alcohol.
The increased risk affects people who drink in moderation, as well as heavy drinkers. The researchers estimate that if heavy and moderate drinkers with this deficiency switched to drinking small amounts of alcohol, oesophageal cancer rates could fall by more than 50 per cent.
Cancer of the oesophagus is particularly deadly, with five year survival rates of between 12 per cent and 31 per cent.