Although it has a naturally bitter flavor, millions of people across the world drink hot tea on a regular basis. It contains plant-based antioxidants that, when consumed, protect cells in the body against oxidation. A recent study, however, has found a disturbing side effect of hot tea: a higher risk of cancer.
Published in the International Journal of Cancer, the study followed over 50,000 men and women for 10 years. Researchers found that participants who consumed about three or more cups of tea per day at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer were 90 percent more likely to develop esophageal cancer than their counterparts who consumed less, cooler tea.
With a five-year survival rate of roughly 15 percent, esophageal cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. When diagnosed early, survival rates are much higher. The problem is that esophageal cancer often goes undetected, allowing it to spread to other parts of the body like the liver.
To lower your risk of esophageal cancer, you should consider drinking tea at a lower temperature. Tea itself isn’t necessarily bad for your health; it’s actually good because it contains antioxidants. But if you drink scalding-hot tea, it could pave the way for cancer. Researchers believe that hot beverages burn the inside of the esophagus, which triggers a response by the body to repair the damaged tissue. During this repair process, cells can get confused and grow abnormally, forming tumors that spread when left unchecked.
The correlation between esophageal cancer and hot beverages has been known for years. In 2016, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared hot beverages — defined as beverages warmer than 149 degrees Fahrenheit — as possibly carcinogenic. While that doesn’t mean drinking hot tea will give you cancer, it’s still something to consider the next time you brew a cup. Allowing your tea to cool down for a few minutes will allow you to safely enjoy it without burning your esophagus and potentially increasing your risk of cancer.