Drinking hot tea, when combined with heavy alcohol and tobacco use, increases risk of esophageal cancer by five fold, according to a recently published study.
The China-based study published online Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Annals of Internal Medicine followed tea drinking habits of more than 450,000 people between 30 to 79 years old over about 9 years. Researchers asked participants about their tea drinking habits, along with other lifestyle choices, through a questionnaire.
Findings suggest that those who reported drinking "hot" or "burning-hot" tea regularly, in addition to "excessively" drinking alcohol or smoking (two already known causes of cancer) increase their chances of developing esophageal cancer. Excessive drinking was defined as having 15 grams of pure alcohol (slightly more than a 12-ounce glass of beer or 5 ounce glass of wine) pure day.
Researchers noted more studies are needed to confirm these findings, and tea's link to cancer.
The National Natural Science Foundation of China and National Key Research and Development Program funded the study. China is among the countries with the highest rates of esophageal cancer.
Peter F. Goggi, President of the Tea Association of the USA released a statement following the findings, pointing to tea's health benefits, including research suggesting it could actually prevent cancer.
“The Tea Council of the USA confidently reiterates that tea is associated with more health benefits than harm — but that alcohol and tobacco appear to remain risk factors for esophageal cancer," Goggi said in a statement.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, and the National Toxicology Program does not recognize tea as a carcinogen. But the IARC did find that hot beverages (at least 149 degrees) "probably" cause cancer of the esophagus.
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