For tea lovers, nothing beats a nice cup of hot tea as refreshment. In fact, it is a nice companion during winter where it helps to keep the body warm and clears your throat. A nice banter over a cup of hot tea and some biscuits, anyone?
Despite the many established health benefits associated with tea consumption, a new study has suggested that drinking hot tea can significantly increase the risk of esophageal cancer among certain high risk groups. It is worth pointing out that the hypothesis linking hot drinks to esophageal cancer is nothing new based on previous clinical observations.
Nevertheless, drinking very hot beverages was classified by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (the cancer agency of the World Health Organization) as probable carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A) rather than a definite carcinogen (class 1) based on limited evidence from epidemiological studies.
The current study, led by researchers from Peking University in Beijing China was published in February 2018 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It was reported that the consumption of tea at high temperatures can raise the risk of esophageal among smokers or those who drink alcohol daily. The study followed 456,155 people aged 30 to 79 years for approximately 9 years where 1731 cases of esophageal cancer were documented.
The study revealed that participants who drank burning-hot tea and 15 g or more of alcohol daily had 5 times the risk for esophageal cancer when compared with those who had a habit of drinking tea less than weekly and consumed less than 15 g of alcohol daily. Likewise, the risk of esophageal cancer was 2 times higher for current smokers who drank burning-hot tea daily. As such, the study concluded that drinking tea at high temperatures is associated with an increased risk for esophageal cancer when combined with high alcohol consumption or tobacco use than drinking hot tea alone.
Despite the results not showing higher risk of esophageal cancer among people who only drank tea (scalding hot or not) daily, the researchers did note the possibility of prolonged thermal injury to the lining of esophageal leading to carcinogenesis (transformation of normal cells to cancer cells).
For tea lovers out there, do continue to enjoy the flavourful and healthy drink although you should be mindful with the temperature of your tea.
“Tea is nought but this: first you heat the water, then you make the tea. Then you drink it properly. That is all you need to know.”
-Sen no Rikyu-
- Yu C, Tang H, Guo Y, Bian Z, Yang L, Chen Y, et al. Effect of Hot Tea Consumption and Its Interactions With Alcohol and Tobacco Use on the Risk for Esophageal Cancer: A Population-Based Cohort Study. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 6 February 2018] doi: 10.7326/M17-2000 Available at: http://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/2671921/effect-hot-tea-consumption-its-interactions-alcohol-tobacco-use-risk
- IARC (2016) International Research for Research of Cancer Monographs evaluate drinking coffee, maté, and very hot beverages. Avalaible at: https://dosinghealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/pr244_E.pdf