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Drinking tea at very high temperatures poses danger of esophageal cancer

MILAN – New research, appearing in the International Journal of Cancer, finds an association between drinking tea at very high temperatures and the risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Previous studies had revealed a link between hot tea drinking and risk of esophageal cancer, but until now, no study had examined this association using prospectively and objectively measured tea drinking temperature.

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A new International Journal of Cancer study achieved this by following 50,045 individuals aged 40 to 75 years for a median of 10 years.

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2019, there will be approximately 17,650 new cases of esophageal cancer and over 16,000 people will die from it.

In terms of a person’s outlook, the Society estimate that approximately 20 percent of people with esophageal cancer go on to live for 5 years after the diagnosis.

Numerous factors may raise a person’s risk of developing cancer of the esophagus. These include being older than 55, being male, having acid reflux, or eating a diet high in processed meats and low in fruits and vegetables.

During follow-up, 317 new cases of esophageal cancer were identified. Compared with drinking less than 700 ml of tea per day at less than 60°C, drinking 700 ml per day or more at a higher temperature (60°C or higher) was associated with a 90 percent higher risk of esophageal cancer.

“Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages. However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking,” said lead author Dr. Farhad Islami, of the American Cancer Society.

However, most of these studies asked the participants to remember and estimate how much tea they drank and at what temperature.

Such an approach may have biased the results. Namely, when participants have to estimate something in retrospect, recall bias may affect their answers. Researchers, led by Dr. Farhad Islami, the strategic director of Cancer Surveillance Research at the American Cancer Society, also wanted to study tea drinking habits prospectively rather than retroactively.