Drinking Very Hot Tea May Raise Esophageal Cancer Risk

Area of northern Iran where residents drink very hot tea has increased incidence of the disease

FRIDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- Drinking tea before it has cooled down slightly is associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer, according to study findings published online March 26 in BMJ.

Farhad Islami, of Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran, and colleagues conducted a study of 300 people in the northern Iranian province of Golestan diagnosed with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, and 571 matched neighborhood controls. The province has a higher than usual incidence of esophageal cancer, and while it is common to drink very hot tea, rates of tobacco and alcohol use, both risk factors for esophageal cancer, are low.

Black tea was regularly consumed by 98 percent of the study cohort, of which 39 percent drank their tea at less than 60° Celsius, 38.9 percent at 60 to 64° C, and 22 percent at 65° C or above, the researchers report. Drinking hot or very hot tea increased the odds of esophageal cancer by 2.07 times and 8.16 times, respectively, the investigators found. Drinking tea quickly after being poured was also associated with an increased risk, with a 2.49 and 5.41 increased risk at two to three minutes, and less than two minutes after pouring, respectively, compared with drinking tea four or more minutes after pouring, the report indicates.

"A large proportion of Golestan inhabitants drink hot tea, so this habit may account for a substantial proportion of the cases of esophageal cancer in this population," the authors write. "Informing the population about the hazards of drinking hot tea may be helpful in reducing the incidence of esophageal cancer in Golestan and in other high risk populations where similar habits are prevalent."

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