An article in today's NEW YORK TIMES suggests that drinkers who turn pink have something serious to be worried about. The phenomenon, known in impolitic circles as "Asian flush," could actually be a precursor to esophageal cancer:

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.

I'm glad this article has been so widely-circulated; this important research could and should save thousands of lives. However, as a black woman, I've never flushed a day in my life! Which brings me to THE BROWNTABLE's question of the day: If you have darker skin—whether you drink heavily or not—what's your risk?

—DAYO OLOPADE

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