Hot tea consumption increases risk of cancer for drinkers and smokers

Laverne Higgins
February 6, 2018

Compared with participants who drank tea less than weekly and consumed fewer than 15g of alcohol daily, those who drank burning-hot tea and 15g or more of alcohol daily had the greatest risk for esophageal cancer - a hazard ratio of five.

Tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as the chemical compounds and adverse thermal effect of high-temperature tea, considerably complicate the association between tea consumption and esophageal cancer risk.

Researchers are now set to investigate whether drinking tea at high temperatures also increases the risk of oesophageal cancer.

Effect of Hot Tea Consumption and Its Interactions With Alcohol and Tobacco Use on the Risk for Esophageal Cancer: A Population-Based Cohort Study.

So tea drinkers who don't smoke or drink alcohol excessively probably don't need to switch to a different beverage anytime soon, according to Lv.

At the start of the study, none of the participants had cancer. The authors followed 456,155 participants aged 30 to 79 for a media follow-up period of 9.2 years.

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China is among the countries with the highest incidence of esophageal cancer, researchers note in the Annals of Internal Medicine. "Nevertheless, accumulating data suggest that drinking very hot tea may also increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and it may be prudent for people who drink very hot beverages to wait until it cools down a bit before drinking, whether or not they also smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol".

Yet, drinking hot tea alone was not associated with developing cancer. Tea consumers were self-reporting whether their cup of tea was burning hot, warm, hot or at room temperature.

However, the absence of both excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, daily tea drinking was not associated with oesophageal cancer risk. However, further research studies are needed to confirm it.

While the connection between hot drinks and cancer has been investigated in the past, results were never entirely conclusive.

Dr Lv concluded the findings suggest that abstaining from hot tea may be beneficial for persons who drink alcohol excessively or smoke. According to a 2009 study in the journal Nature Reviews Cancer, components of tea leaves have been shown to have antioxidant properties and may protect against other types of cancers, particularly colon and prostate cancer. "But even in the hot areas, which are in the Northeast and West Coast, most people will be adding something to it, whether it's a little sweetener or lemon, slightly decreasing the liquid's temperature". This they say is unlikely to cause cancer.

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