Comparison between self-reported facial flushing after alcohol consumption and ALDH2 Glu504Lys polymorphism for risk of upper aerodigestive tract cancer in a Japanese population

Cancer Sci. 2010 Aug;101(8):1875-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1349-7006.2010.01599.x. Epub 2010 Apr 23.


Some Japanese exhibit facial flushing after drinking alcohol. Facial flushing was considered to be caused by acetaldehydemia. The concentration of blood acetaldehyde was concerned with the catalytic activity of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)-2 polymorphism (rs671, Glu504Lys) was known to be associated with upper aerodigestive tract (UAT) cancer due to modulation of ALDH2 enzyme activity. It remains controversial whether facial flushing is useful in predicting UAT cancer risk as a surrogate marker of ALDH2 polymorphism. We conducted a case-control study to assess the risk of UAT cancer and facial flushing and ALDH2 polymorphism. Cases and controls were 585 UAT cancer patients and matched 1170 noncancer outpatients of Aichi Cancer Center Hospital. Information on facial flushing and other lifestyle factors was collected via a self-administered questionnaire. Association between facial flushing, polymorphism, and UAT cancer was assessed by odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals by using conditional logistic regression models. The facial flushing had no significant association with UAT cancer, although ALDH2 Lys allele was significantly associated with UAT cancer. No significant interaction between facial flushing and alcohol consumption was observed in this study, whereas ALDH2 Lys allele had significant association with UAT cancer. The misclassification between facial flushing and ALDH2 genotype was observed in 18% of controls with ALDH2 Glu/Glu genotype and in 16% of controls with ALDH2 Glu/Lys genotype. Facial flushing was less useful to predict UAT cancer risk than genotyping ALDH2 polymorphism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Female
  • Flushing / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pharyngeal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Risk


  • ALDH2 protein, human
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial