Education

Alcohol-induced facial flushing is when someone’s face turns red and their heart beats faster after drinking alcohol. People who flush have a genetic variant that causes the build-up of a harmful alcohol intermediate, acetaldehyde. Scientists have traced the origins of this variant to the Han Chinese in Central China. This variant causes people who smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or do both have a much higher risk of certain diseases, including cancer, since they cannot efficiently break down the aldehydes they are exposed to with these lifestyle choices.

Aldehydes, like the one made in the breakdown of alcohol, are also found in e-cigarettes and cigarettes and may build-up in harmful ways inside the bodies of people with the variant who smoke or vape.  

This genetic variant which causes facial flushing after alcohol also causes nitroglycerin, a medicine used to improve blood flow during or after heart attacks, to be less effective.