July 7, 2006

Drinking tea may stave off bile stones and cancer

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Results of a study conducted in
China indicate that drinking tea reduces the risk of bile
stones and cancer, especially among women.

Bile stones, which are often seen in women and have been
linked to obesity, occur in the ducts that transfer bile from
the liver to the small intestine. If the stones block the
opening of the gallbladder, they can cause discomfort and pain,
typically located just below the rib cage on the right side of
the abdomen. At this stage, gallbladder removal, or
"cholecystectomy," is often required. Serious complications
from bile stones are uncommon.

By contrast, "biliary tract cancers...are rare but highly
fatal," Dr. Ann W. Hsing, of the National Cancer Institute,
Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues write in the International
Journal of Cancer.

"Apart from gallstones, (causative) factors for biliary
tract cancer are not clearly defined," they note. Several
studies "have suggested that consumption of tea, especially
green tea, is protective against a variety of cancers."

In the new study, the researchers examined the effects of
tea consumption on the risk of biliary tract cancers and
biliary stones. Included in the study were 627 patients with
biliary tract cancer, 1,037 with biliary stones, and 959
comparison subjects.

The team obtained data on demographics, medical and dietary
factors, and tea consumption. Tea drinkers were defined as
those who drank at least one cup of tea per day for at least 6
months. Of the 959 control subjects, 394 (41 percent) were ever
tea drinkers.

In women, drinking at least one cup of tea per day for at
least 6 months seemed to cut the risks of bile stones by 27
percent, gallbladder cancer by 44 percent, and bile duct cancer
by 35 percent. In men, tea drinking had a similar effect, but
not of the magnitude seen in women.

Certain chemicals in tea may prevent cells from growing
abnormally and may have antiinflammatory effects that reduce
the risk of these bile tract diseases, Hsing's team explains.
Further studies are needed to see if these findings can be

SOURCE: International Journal of Cancer, June 2006.