Hot Tea, Coffee May Increase Throat Cancer Risk

Very hot tea may increase the risk of esophageal cancer, a study finds.

ByABC News
March 24, 2009, 10:42 PM

March 27, 2009 — -- Tea has been touted for its potential health benefits for millennia, but new research shows if you drink it too hot, you may end up increasing your risk for esophageal cancer.

Doctors have long wondered whether very hot beverages increase the risk for squamous cell esophageal cancer. Considering the many things people eat and drink, studies have come back mixed on the hot drink and cancer connection.

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But in the Golestan Province in Iran, people tend to drink just two beverages: water and very hot tea. The people in the province also tend to have an abnormally high rate of esophageal cancer.

A research team traveled to Golestan and documented the smoking, alcohol use and tea habits of 871 people in the region, 300 of whom were recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer. According to the study published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers found a strong link between the temperature at which people preferred their tea and the likelihood that they developed cancer.

"We have found many factors and the hot tea is one of the factors," said Reza Malekzadeh, professor and director of the Digestive Disease Research Center at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran.

"Having a poor social economic status, not eating enough vegetables and fruit and not brushing their teeth are some [risk factors]. One of the main ones is the hot tea," he added.

So how hot is too hot for your throat? The scientists classified warm tea at anything below 149 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot tea, anything measured above 156 degrees Fahrenheit, doubled the risk of esophageal cancer. People who frequently had very hot tea, at 158 degrees Fahrenheit or above, had an eight-fold increased risk of esophageal cancer.

At the very hot temperature, Malekzadeh said, "it would even hurt your finger -- but they get used to it, you see."

"The temperature -- this is probably a cultural type of thing," he added.