Drinking Piping Hot Cups Of Tea Linked To Higher Risk Of Throat Cancer, Study Suggests

Do you let your tea cool down before you drink it?

Drinking very hot drinks may be linked to a 90% higher risk of throat cancer, a new study suggests.

Researchers found drinking 700ml per day of tea at 60C or higher was “consistently associated” with a 90% increased risk of the disease – compared with people who consumed drinks at lower temperatures.

“Drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of oesophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking,” said lead author Dr Farhad Islami, from the American Cancer Society.

She added: “As long you’re letting your tea cool down a bit before you drink it, or adding cold milk, you’re unlikely to be raising your cancer risk.”

Volodymyr Kotoshchuk via Getty Images

Published in the International Journal of Cancer, the study looked at the drinking habits of 50,045 people aged 40 to 75 who lived in north-eastern Iran.

During a follow-up period from 2004 to 2017, 317 new cases of oesophageal cancer – also known as cancer of the food pipe – were identified.

Professor Mel Greaves, from The Institute of Cancer Research, said it isn’t clear why or how hot liquid has this apparent effect. “Possibilities include direct damage to the oesophageal lining cells, another that hot liquid functions, in smokers, as a solvent for cigarette tar, washing chemical carcinogens down the oesophagus,” she said.

“As smoking is a recognised risk factor for oesophageal cancer both mechanisms could play a part, interacting to increase risk in the case of smokers who ‘like it hot’.”

Georgina Hill, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said this study adds to existing evidence that having drinks hotter than 60 degrees may increase the risk of oesophageal cancer – but she said most people in the UK don’t drink their tea at such high temperatures.

“Not smoking, keeping a healthy weight and cutting down on alcohol will do much more to stack the odds in your favour,” she added.