Drinking very hot beverages can lead to cancer, study says

How would you like your tea or coffee?

For many people, grabbing a cup of tea or coffee in the morning is a common habit. But how do you like your tea? Mildly hot, pretty hot or burning hot? It depends on the culture of where you live.

A culture or tradition that may harm you, permanently

The link between cancer and drinking a lot of tea and coffee are indeterminate or non-existent according to a June 16, 2016 report of Cancer Council Western Australia.

However, drinking tea and coffee and at 60 degrees Celsius or higher has now been strongly associated with a higher risk of esophageal cancer. How much higher? Up to 90% higher, according to a new International Journal of Cancer study.

A research published by the international cancer body on March 20, 2019 tracked the habits of more than 50,000 tea drinkers in Golestan, a province in northeastern Iran for about a decade and found that 317 new cases of esophageal cancer were developed.

The study said that those who drank about 700 ml of tea (or two large cups) a day at 60 degrees or hotter had a 90% higher risk of esophageal cancer, when compared to those who drank less tea and at cooler temperatures.

According to the study lead author, Dr Farhad Islami

“Many people enjoy drinking tea, coffee, or other hot beverages. However, according to our report, drinking very hot tea can increase the risk of esophageal cancer, and it is therefore advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking.”

Previous research has found a link between hot tea/coffee drinking and esophageal cancer. This study, published Wednesday was the first to narrow it down to a specific temperature, according to the authors.

The esophagus is a long tube through which swallowed food and liquids travel to reach the stomach.

Esophageal cancer is the eighth most common cancer in the world and is often fatal, killing approximately 400,000 people every year, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

In the United States alone, The American Cancer Society estimates that 13750 new cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in men and 3,900 new cases in women in the United States in 2019.

The study said more research was needed on why exactly drinking very hot tea is associated with the higher risk of esophageal cancer.

However, Dr Islami said chronic thermal injury to the esophagus could cause inflammation that could lead to cancer or make it easier for carcinogens ingested through food or drink to penetrate the esophageal lining.

Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who was not involved in the study confirmed the above position. In a CNN report he said,

“It was the heat that was the issue rather than the type of beverage. In fact, it is probably anything hot: It is possible that the trauma leads to cell changes and hence to cancer.”

This report corroborates previous ones.

A 2016 World Health Organization study had suggested this linkage while a 2018 China-based study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, found drinking hot tea, when combined with heavy alcohol and tobacco use, significantly increases the risk of esophageal cancer.

While it is not clear at what temperatures Nigerians generally like their tea, this report concludes that since

“there is no known health benefit from drinking very hot beverages, it will be reasonable to advise people in Golestan and elsewhere to wait for their hot beverages to cool down before drinking.”

Early signs of esophageal cancer

Dr Ian Shyaka of the Rwandan Military Hospital in a November 26, 2018 article in the New Times of Rwandan said,

“Early signs might be of acid reflux disease such as longstanding heart burn, stomach pain (pain in the upper abdomen), non-burning chest pain, difficulty or pain on swallowing, or food getting stuck, persistent voice hoarseness, persistent sore throat, chronic cough, new onset asthma or asthma only at night, recurrent lung infections (called pneumonia), and waking up with a choking sensation. As the disease progresses, one develops difficulty swallowing, starting with solid foods and progressing to liquids, loss of weight, general body weakness, sometimes vomiting blood, or symptoms of advanced disease to other body parts such as liver, lungs and bones. Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is advised for all patients with longstanding heart burn and vague symptoms or alarm symptoms (including difficulty swallowing), and for all patients older than 55 years with persistent recent-onset of those symptoms to rule out esophageal cancer being the cause. Although the majority of patients referred under these guidelines will have other cause for their symptoms, this low threshold is essential if cancers are to be detected at an early, curable stage.”

The good news

The incidence of esophageal cancer is said to be low in Nigeria (0.4-0.6% of all malignant tumours) according to two reports I looked up dated 2008 and 2015. May be Nigerians are not “hot” on drinking very hot tea unlike people in the Middle East and Russia. Let’s do better by eliminating it completely.

Stop drinking very hot beverages!

Philemon D. Adjekuko
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

About author
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Newspackng.
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