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Drinking very hot tea can double risk of oesophageal cancer, scientists say

The Independent logo The Independent 20/03/2019 Conrad Duncan
a cup of coffee © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Drinking very hot tea could almost double the risk of oesophageal cancer, according to a study of 50,000 people.

Cancer experts found that drinking 700ml per day of tea at 60C or higher was “consistently associated” with a 90 per cent higher risk of the disease, compared with people who drank liquids at lower temperatures.

The study’s lead author, Dr Farhad Islami, advised tea drinkers to let their beverages cool down before drinking them to reduce the cancer risk.

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The research, which was published in the International Journal of Cancer, studied the drinking habits of 50,045 people aged 40 to 75 in northeastern Iran.

Dr Islami, from the American Cancer Society, said: “Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages.

“However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of oesophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking.”

Oesophageal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the gullet (oesophagus), which carries food from the throat to the stomach.

Doctor consulting male patient, working on diagnostic examination on men's health disease or mental illness, while writing on prescription record information document in clinic or hospital office © Getty Doctor consulting male patient, working on diagnostic examination on men's health disease or mental illness, while writing on prescription record information document in clinic or hospital office If you let your tea cool down before drinking it, or add cold milk, you are unlikely to be increasing the risk of cancer.

In 2016, the International Agency for Research on Cancer – the cancer agency of the World Health Organisation – classified drinking very hot beverages above 65C as a probable carcinogen.

The judgement was informed by studies which mostly looked at mate, a type of tea that is traditionally drunk at very hot temperatures, mainly in South America, Asia, and Africa.

However, they said it was the temperature rather than the type of drink that was associated with cancer so the findings would also, in theory, apply to other types of tea.

Working man touching stomach, suffering painful of stomachache, gastrointestinal system disease during working cause of stress from work, Health insurance care concept © Getty Working man touching stomach, suffering painful of stomachache, gastrointestinal system disease during working cause of stress from work, Health insurance care concept The new study did not mention mate but examined tea.

The research team behind the new study, which includes researchers from the University of Cambridge, concluded: “Our results substantially strengthen the existing evidence supporting an association between hot beverage drinking and [oesophageal cancer].”

Georgina Hill, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “This study adds to the evidence that having drinks hotter than 60 degrees may increase the risk of oesophageal cancer.”

tea freshly brewed in a glass cup and some herbs on a dark rustic wooden background, healthy hot drink against cold and flu, copy space, selected focus © Getty tea freshly brewed in a glass cup and some herbs on a dark rustic wooden background, healthy hot drink against cold and flu, copy space, selected focus However, she added that the risk to regular tea drinkers is low so long as you are responsible. 

“Most people in the UK don’t drink their tea at such high temperatures,” Ms Hill said.

“As long as you’re letting your tea cool down a bit before you drink it, or adding cold milk, you’re unlikely to be raising your cancer risk – and not smoking, keeping a healthy weight and cutting down on alcohol will do much more to stack the odds in your favour.”

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