OK, so there was this story in the New York Times today, and it had to do with a very serious issue — namely, an increased risk of throat cancer among certain people.
Which people? Well, it’s hard to know exactly how to phrase it. Let’s say your parents or grandparents were from a foreign country — especially one of the ones that are wayyyy off to the right of the U.S. on most maps. The ones where they use tiny pictures instead of letters when they write.
Some people call those people Asians, but I’m not sure that’s the politically correct term. When I was a kid we called them Orientals, but that’s definitely not right.
Anyway, if you’re of Japanese, Korean, or Chinese descent and your face gets all red when you drink booze, the Times says watch your ass because you might be on the high speed magnet train to cancertown:
The flushing response, which may be accompanied by nausea and a rapid heartbeat, is caused mainly by an inherited deficiency in an enzyme called ALDH2, a trait shared by more than a third of people of East Asian ancestry — Japanese, Chinese or Koreans. As little as half a bottle of beer can trigger the reaction.
The deficiency results in problems in metabolizing alcohol, leading to an accumulation in the body of a toxin called acetaldehyde. People with two copies of the gene responsible have such unpleasant reactions that they are unable to consume large amounts of alcohol. This aversion actually protects them against the increased risk for cancer.
But those with only one copy can develop a tolerance to acetaldehyde and become heavy drinkers.
“What we’re trying to do here is raise awareness of this risk factor among doctors and their ALDH2-deficient patients,” said Dr. Philip J. Brooks, an investigator with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and an author of the report published on Monday in the journal PLoS Medicine. “It’s a pretty serious risk.”
So please, people of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean descent — please be careful when imbibing. Because you don’t want throat cancer. It’s worse than agent orange, I’ll bet.
OK I’m just going to shut up now.
Drinkers’ Red Face May Signal Cancer Risk [New York Times]