A SNP in rs1229984 encodes a form of the alcohol dehydrogenase ADH1B gene that significantly reduces the clearance rate of alcohol from the liver. This SNP is also known as Arg48His, with the (G) allele corresponding to the Arg and the (A) to the His.
Known in the literature as ADH22 or sometimes ADH1B2, the allele with increased activity (meaning more rapid oxidation of ethanol to acetaldehyde) is His48, encoded by rs1229984(A). Individuals with one or especially two ADH2*2 alleles, ie genotypes rs1229984(A;G) or rs1229984(A;A) are more likely to find drinking unpleasant and have a somewhat reduced risk for alcoholism.
A study of over 3,800 cases of “upper aerodigestive” cancers (mouth/throat, voice box, and esophageal cancers) concluded that the rs1229984(A) allele (in dbSNP orientation) has a protective effect. Carriers of this allele had a 0.56x (decreased; p=10-10) risk of having one of these cancer types.
rs671 is a classic SNP, well known in a sense through the phenomena known as the “alcohol flush”, also known as the “Asian Flush” or “Asian blush”, in which certain individuals, often of Asian descent, have their face, neck and sometimes shoulders turn red after drinking alcohol.
The rs671(A) allele of the ALDH2 gene is the culprit, in that it encodes a form of the aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 protein that is defective at metabolizing alcohol. This allele is known as the ALDH*2 form, and individuals possessing either one or two copies of it show alcohol-related sensitivity responses including facial flushing, and severe hangovers (and hence they are usually not regular drinkers). Perhaps not surprisingly they appear to suffer less from alcoholism and alcohol-related liver disease.