Headlines saying ‘hot tea causes oesophageal cancer’ miss crucial details


A cup of tea is a part of the day by day routine for many individuals within the UK. However scorching drinks have hit headlines at this time, with new analysis sparking claims that scorching tea ‘doubles the danger of oesophageal most cancers’.

The principle discovering of the research, part-funded by Most cancers Analysis UK, isn’t new. Consuming highly regarded drinks might increase the danger of oesophageal most cancers, and this research provides to the restricted proof by finding out a big group of individuals from Iran.

However how scorching is scorching? And is that raised danger one thing to fret about?

What did the research do?

The research, printed within the Worldwide Journal of Most cancers, included individuals dwelling in Iran and requested about their tea consuming habits, measuring the temperature at which they most popular to drink tea firstly of the research.

Researchers checked again with these individuals 10 years afterward common to see how many individuals had developed a sure kind of oesophageal most cancers. And if their tea-drinking habits performed any function in who developed it.

What did the research present?

Individuals who most popular consuming their tea at or above 60C (140F) had an elevated danger of oesophageal most cancers, in comparison with those that most popular consuming their tea beneath 60C. Crucially, 60C is more likely to be lots hotter than most cups of tea.

However an individual’s danger of oesophageal most cancers can depend upon many components and the research didn’t have a look at all of those. The researchers did have a look at if individuals had ever smoked or have been present people who smoke, however not how a lot individuals had smoked, or for the way lengthy. Additionally they didn’t look intimately at their consuming habits, which may additionally have an effect on oesophageal most cancers danger.

When information tales say scorching tea ‘doubles oesophageal most cancers danger’ or will increase it ‘by 90%’, it’s vital to recollect these are relative dangers and ought to be handled with warning, as we’ve blogged about earlier than.

To essentially perceive danger, it must be put into context. And which means factoring in how widespread the illness is total. Within the a part of Iran the place this research occurred, oesophageal most cancers charges are excessive, so one thing that raises this danger even a little bit bit could have a bigger influence.

However right here within the UK, oesophageal most cancers is much less widespread, accounting for three in 100 new instances of most cancers.
So even when highly regarded drinks may enhance somebody’s danger of oesophageal most cancers, the probabilities of them creating the most cancers are nonetheless low, as a result of it isn’t quite common within the UK.

So, what may these outcomes imply for you?

It’s vital to do not forget that this research was based mostly on individuals dwelling in Iran. The traditions and varieties of tea drunk in Iran could also be very totally different to how most individuals within the UK drink their tea. For instance, the individuals within the research have been consuming inexperienced or black tea, the place within the UK, most individuals add chilly milk to their tea, which is able to shortly cool it down.

When you’re leaving your tea to chill for a couple of minutes earlier than consuming it, even whereas it’s brewing, or including chilly milk, it’s unlikely that you just’re growing your danger of oesophageal most cancers.

And in case you’ve by chance burnt your mouth on a scorching drink just a few occasions earlier than, that is unlikely to make a lot distinction.

The researchers say of their research that drinks are often consumed at extra average quantities and temperatures in Western populations, like within the UK.

Maybe most significantly, analysis exhibits that there are different issues you are able to do to cut back your danger of oesophageal most cancers that can have a much bigger influence than ditching your morning brew. Not smoking, holding a wholesome weight and slicing down on how a lot alcohol you drink are price extra consideration than the temperature of your tea.

What’s subsequent for analysis into this hyperlink?

Some research, based mostly in different places the place historically individuals drink highly regarded drinks, comparable to China, Turkey and South America, have discovered an identical hyperlink. However extra analysis is required to know how scorching drinks may have an effect on danger. We’re additionally funding analysis attempting to trace down beforehand unknown causes of most cancers in elements of the world with excessive charges of sure cancers, together with oesophageal most cancers.

To this point, researchers recommend scorching drinks may trigger injury by burning cells. This may occasionally result in irritation that makes it extra probably that most cancers develops. These broken tissues may additionally grow to be extra susceptible to different issues that may trigger most cancers, like chemical substances in tobacco smoke.

However, so long as you’re having fun with your tea at a cushty temperature and leaving it to chill for a bit earlier than you drink it, you shouldn’t fear about growing your danger by consuming scorching drinks.

Georgina Hill is a well being info officer at Most cancers Analysis UK 


Islami, F., et al (2019) A potential research of tea consuming temperature and danger of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. IJC. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.32220

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