Be careful - your favorite tea can cause you cancer. Yes, you read that right. Drinking hot tea is associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that there will be nearly 17,650 new cases of esophageal cancer, and over 16,000 individuals will die from it in 2019. More importantly, esophageal cancer is the 8thmost common cancer in the world, with 13,950 new cases in men and 3,900 in women. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, about 400,000 adults die of esophageal cancer every year.
Many research studies have been done on this association. But the previous studies were retrospective studies that did not objectively measure the temperature of tea while drinking. Some researchers have also shown that drinking any hot liquid of high temperatures increases the risk of esophageal cancer.
The risk is estimated to be about 90% higher in people who prefer to drink more than 700 ml of tea at a temperature of more than 140 degrees Fahrenheit than those who drink less amount of tea at a lower temperature. Similarly, about 20% of people after diagnosis can survive up to the next 5 years.
A new study has been published in the International Journal of Cancer that specifically points out the temperature that increases the risk of having cancer. This study was done in Iran, involving 50,045 adults aged 40-75 years for a median of 10 years. The lead author of the study says, “Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages. However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea increases the risk of esophageal cancer. It is, therefore, advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking.” Also, about 317 persons developed esophageal cancer in the Golestan Cohort study conducted by a cancer epidemiologist, Farhad Islami, in Iran.
The other factors that increase the risk of an individual having an esophageal cancer are age above 55 years, male gender, a diet rich in processed meat and low in fruits and vegetables, and acid reflux disease. The researchers concluded that the results they obtained in the Golestan Cohort study have only strengthened the existing evidence supporting an association between hot beverage drinking and esophageal cancer risk. The study members say, “It may thus be a reasonable public-health measure to extrapolate these results to all types of beverages and to advise the public to wait for beverages to cool down to 60-degree Celsius before consumption. However, the authors conclude that more studies should be conducted to understand the pathogenesis behind this mechanism. Do you care about the temperature of your tea before drinking it? If no, you should. More importantly, you know the right temperature for that now.