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Study Links Throat Cancer To Drinking Very Hot Tea

March 27, 2009

Iranian researchers released a population-based study on Friday that showed drinking very hot tea may increase the risk of throat cancer, Reuters reported.

People are advised to let steaming drinks cool before consuming them, the report said.

The research published in the British Medical Journal suggests that scalding beverages may be linked to cancer of the esophagus, much like tobacco and alcohol.

Reza Malekzadeh of Tehran University of Medical Sciences and colleagues showed an eight-fold increased risk of throat cancer was linked to drinking very hot tea at temperatures higher than 158 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to sipping warm or lukewarm tea at less than 149 degrees.

The researchers analyzed the tea-drinking habits of 300 people with esophageal cancer and another 571 healthy men and women from the same area in Golestan Province in northern Iran.

The researchers said that even though smoking rates and alcohol consumption in the region are low, it still has one of the highest rates of throat cancer in the world.

The majority of the volunteers regularly consumed on average more than a liter of black tea a day.

The study suggested those who regularly drank tea less than two minutes after pouring were five times more likely to develop the cancer, compared to those who waited four or more minutes before drinking.

Most people seem to prefer their tea at an average temperature of 132 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a British study.

While the report acknowledged it is still unknown how hot tea might cause cancer, it is possible that repeated thermal injury to the lining of the throat somehow initiates it.

Around half a million people a year die from cancers of the esophagus. The majority of the disease seems to occur in discrete populations in Asia, Africa, and South America.

Cancerous esophageal tumors carry only a five-year survival rate of 12 to 31 percent.

U.S. and Japanese researchers reported earlier this week that around a third of East Asians””Chinese, Japanese and Koreans””have an enzyme deficiency that puts them at higher risk of developing esophageal cancer due to alcohol consumption.

The university study suggested that informing the population about the hazards of drinking hot tea might 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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