Hot Tea and Cancer

by Julian

March 27 2009 - You may want to wait four minutes before sipping your next cup of tea.

Drinking tea that is very hot can raise the risk of cancer of the esophagus, the muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the throat to the stomach, according to a study the British Medical Journal published today.

It's not tea per se; it's really the temperature at which the beverage is drunk, Paolo Boffetta, group head and cluster coordinator at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, said in a video released on the Web by BMJ.

Scientists set out to investigate why the Golestan province in northern Iran has one of the world's highest rates of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, the most common kind of tumors of the esophagus. Locals don't use much tobacco or alcohol, the main cause for such cancers in Europe and the U.S. They do drink tea at temperatures that often exceed 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit), the researchers said.

Compared with drinking the beverage four or more minutes after being poured, drinking tea less than two minutes after pouring was associated with a fivefold higher risk of esophageal cancer, according to the study findings. Likewise, drinking very hot tea, meaning 70 degrees or more, was associated with an eightfold increased risk, the study showed.

This has the potential to save lives,? Boffetta said.

Cancers of the esophagus kill more than 500,000 people around the world every year, the researchers said, citing statistics from the IARC and the American Cancer Society.

Major Importance

Locally in Iran this is going to be of major importance because they can intervene on the spot and it's not just in Iran that people drink a lot of hot tea, Nick Day, emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, said in the video.

The authors of the report investigated the drinking habits of 300 people diagnosed with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and a matched group of 571 healthy people from the same area. Almost all participants drank black tea regularly, with an average volume consumed of more than 1 liter (0.3 gallon) a day.

The study showed no link between the amount of tea consumed and risk of cancer. Previous studies have pointed to possible benefits deriving from sipping the beverage. Green tea was suggested as a treatment for diabetes more than 70 years ago. Other studies have shown possible benefits of green tea in cancer and heart disease prevention.

Still, better to wait until it cools down a bit before taking the first sip. Previous studies from the U.K. have reported an average temperature preference of 56 to 60 degrees among healthy people, the researchers said.


Albertina Torsoli (27 March 2009). Wait Four Minutes to Drink Tea to Avoid Cancer, Researchers Say.

Comments for Hot Tea and Cancer

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Apr 01, 2009
where's the middle ground?
by: Ian

Hi Julian,

Will this slow you down in the mornings or are you unworried by the report?

I have read that the proper way to drink Chinese tea and Chinese soups is to slurp them, for the enhanced flavour resulting from their mixing with oxygen and also to cool them down a bit. Is this true? Slurping food and drink in England has long been considered ill manners, but I have taken to it purely for the purpose of cooling down my tea.

It is undesirable to leave it to cool to drinking temperature before you start since it will then be cool when you're at the end of it. I think I've also read an article written by you which reported or suggested that the tongue is better at tasting higher temperature foods and drinks.

60-70C sounds about right anyhow, so no problem. Personally I've always wondered how my mum or others could drink tea at temperatures which would scald my mouth and throat!

Apr 01, 2009
Drinking Hot Tea
by: Julian

Hello my friend Ian!

I was actually surprised by this report, as I thought it is common sense that we should drink when the tea has cooled a bit.

The fact that drinking tea at high temperature is bad for you is not lost on the Chinese expert. Here is an extract from an article I wrote a few years ago about the ideal temperature to drink:

The ideal temperature is between 56 to 62 degree Celsius.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, drinking scalding hot tea is harmful to the digestive system.

Cold tea is said to be "damp" and gathers phlegm.

Leave freshly brewed tea out for a while and you will notice that its colour darkens and fragrance fades.

Like an apple that turns brown, tea compounds lose their potency through oxidation.

Nutrients such as catechins, theanine, vitamin C and B diminish over time. Tea contains amino acids. Leave it even longer and bacteria starts to breed.

The grandmother's tale is that one should never drink tea that has been left overnight. She is not that far from the truth.

I felt I was stating the obvious that time - obviously the Chinese tea expert was aware of the health damage hot fluid does to our body.

Just another example of the MIDDLE way and the wisdom of moderation in everything.


You mention slurping - never read it in the Chinese text but it sounds good!

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