The gene ALDH2, encodes the aldehyde dehydrogenase enzymes which serve to break down aldehydes after alcohol consumption. However, 540 million people globally of the East Asian descent carry the ALDH2*2 gene variant which is the inactive form of the ALDH2 gene¹. This leads to the accumulation of aldehydes which can result in an increased risk of several types of cancer such as head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, and liver cancer². These cancers have strong associations with alcohol consumption, especially for the 50% of East Asians who carry the gene¹. Facial flushing and fast heart rate during alcohol consumption are some indicators of having the ALDH2*2 variant. For East Asians, reducing alcohol intake will help lower the risk of developing cancer of the head and neck, esophagus and liver.
¹Heymann, H. M., Gardner, A. M., & Gross, E. R. (2018). Aldehyde-Induced DNA and Protein Adducts as Biomarker Tools for Alcohol Use Disorder. Trends in Molecular Medicine,24(2), 144-155. doi:10.1016/j.molmed.2017.12.003
²Chang, J. S., Hsiao, J., & Chen, C. (2017). ALDH2 polymorphism and alcohol-related cancers in Asians: A public health perspective. Journal of Biomedical Science,24(1). doi:10.1186/s12929-017-0327-y