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Very hot cuppa 'linked to 90% higher risk of cancer'

Sky News logo Sky News 20/3/2019

Very hot drinks may be linked to a 90% higher risk of getting cancer of the oesophagus, a large study suggests.

a cup of coffee on a table: Most Britons don't have their tea at such high temperatures, says Cancer Research UK © Getty Most Britons don't have their tea at such high temperatures, says Cancer Research UK

Drinking 700ml of tea at 60C (140F) or higher was "consistently associated" with the increased risk compared with people who had drinks at a lower temperature.

The oesophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

The drinking habits of 50,045 people aged 40 to 75, living in northeastern Iran, were monitored by scientists.

Some 317 new cases of the cancer were found during a follow-up period from 2004 to 2017.

Lead author Dr Farhad Islam, of the American Cancer Society, said it is "advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking".

"As long 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," he said.

The study - published in the International Journal of Cancer - backs up the World Health Organisation, which in 2016 said drinks above 65C (149F) were a probable carcinogen.

The WHO research looked at mate, a tea traditionally drunk very hot, mainly in South America, Asia and Africa.

It said it was the temperature that was important rather than the type of drink.

Georgina Hill, from Cancer Research UK, said that "most people in the UK don't drink their tea at such high temperatures".

She said: "As long 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."

Experts are not certain why hot liquid might increase the cancer risk.

Possibilities include direct damage to cells lining the oesophagus, and that in smokers it acts a solvent for cigarette tar and washes down dangerous chemicals.

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