Hot Tea May Raise Esophageal Cancer Risk

by Elena Popec 31. May 2010 10:39

The esophagus is the muscular tube that carries food from out throat to the stomach. Based on current statistics, cancers of this tube kill more than half a million people worldwide every year. There are many factors that have been thought to trigger esophageal cancer; nutritional deficiencies, infections and dietary toxins. Despite the wide speculative belief that it's alcohol and tobacco that cause throat and esophagus cancer, other populations have also had a high rate of this disease; populations that do not drink or smoke. It is with a new study that a new risk has finally come to light. There has been a rise in esophageal cancer among countries where it is traditional to drink black tea above 70ºC (or 158ºF).

Testing & Studies in Temperature of Teas

Iranian researchers have found that drinking this hot tea can be linked to the increased odds of developing cancer of the esophagus and they have provided what most believe is the most conclusive research; the hypothesis that thermal injury can cause cancer. Northern Iran has one of the highest rates of the most common types of esophageal cancer. It is here that a team from the University of Tehran set up a case controlled study of a single area in northern Iran, the Golestan Province, to better understand the spread of esophageal cancer.

The team found that smoking tobacco products and drinking alcohol is an uncommon trait in this population but tea drinking is common. Past studies did not provide suitable data. It was difficult to distinguish whether the negative factors of tea drinking were because of drink temperature or type of beverage consumed. There was also insufficient evidence where the temperature of the tea was rated by the drinker without independent confirmation.

A Difficult Test Procedure Finally Pays Off


To address the issues of the previous studies, the researchers studied tens of thousands of people in the Golestan Province. The subjects of the study drank, on average, a liter of black tea per day each, and temperatures, along with the speed at which it is drunk, were measured. The study has now been printed in the BMJ (formerly The British Medical Journal). Professor Reza Malekzadeh, the leader of the researchers, explains that "Our results showed a noticeable increase in risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma associated with drinking hot tea." The team discovered that the tea itself did not constitute a risk of cancer, but as the temperature increases so does the risk.

Common Sense Might Just Save You from Cancer

Having tea  around 65ºC compared to consuming tea above 65ºC but below 70ºC increases odds of esophagus cancer twice, while consuming tea at over 70ºC increases the risk eight times over. The time in which the hot tea was drunk also plays a part. Drinking tea about four minutes after it's poured decreases the chances of developing esophagus cancer. This can be seen as using common sense and it should be taken to heart. It is best to allow five to ten minutes between making and pouring a hot beverage and this not only applies to tea, but any high temperature food or drink. Any hot beverage or food should be allowed to cool before drinking or eating to better protect your esophagus, and lessen the risk of cancer. Adding milk to hot drinks such as tea and coffee, as is common practice in the West, adequately cools the beverage enough to eliminate the risk.

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