Hot tea linked to esophageal cancer in smokers, drinkers

Brandon Parsons
February 7, 2018

The authors of this prospective cohort study analyzed high-temperature tea drinking, alcohol use, and smoking for possible associations with risk for esophageal cancer.

"If you do frequently drink extremely hot tea, maybe this study should persuade you that it might be worth reconsidering that habit - but you'd probably do a lot more to reduce your risk of oesophageal cancer by giving up smoking and not drinking too much alcohol".

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

Researchers found daily tea drinkers in China who also drank 15g of alcohol (almost 2 units) a day and were smokers were more likely to get cancer of the oesophagus (the long tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach) if they drank very hot tea.

"Under this increased risk of esophageal cancer from smoking and drinking alcohol, if people like drinking very hot tea, the risk of developing cancer will be synergistically higher", Lv said. The idea first came about in the 1930s when doctors at New York's Memorial Hospital - a precursor to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center - hypothesized that esophageal cancer patients had a history of drinking "copious amounts of excessively hot tea".

Esophageal cancer is among the most widely diagnosed types of cancer in the United States.

This is, however, not a breaking news because previous trials have already shown that the main causes of esophageal cancer are smoking and alcohol abuse. During a follow-up period with a median 9.2 years, 1 731 incidences of esophageal cancer were recorded. People who only drank hot tea did not see a significant increase in cancer risk.

China's esophageal cancer rate is among the highest worldwide. If you only drink hot tea, don't worry. Some surveys suggest that most people drink tea or other hot beverages at temperatures below 65 degrees C.

The study was only observational, so a cause-and-effect link can not be determined.

People were only asked about tea, alcohol and tobacco consumption at the start of the study. These three factors could "complicate" the risks for developing this disease.

While the results may sound alarming, researchers say there is an optimal temperature for your drinks. It is also by far, the biggest consumer of tea in the world. For the people who find it hard to do so, avoiding burning-tea is the alternative solution.

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