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Very hot drinks ‘probably’ cause cancer of the oesophagus, world health chiefs warn

ISLAMABAD (Online): Drinking very hot beverages ‘probably’ causes cancer of the oesophagus, global health experts warned today.

Gulping down anything very hot – over 65°C (150F) – including water, coffee, tea and other beverages – is linked to the disease, according The World Health Organisation’s cancer agency.

The theory is that cancer can be initiated by constant irritation of the lining of the mouth and throat by very hot water.

‘[New figures] suggest drinking very hot beverages is one probable cause of oesophageal cancer and that it is the temperature, rather than the drinks themselves, that appears to be responsible,’ said Christopher Wild, director of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

However, it concluded it is safe if consumed at ‘normal serving temperatures’ – i.e. 65 or under.

Drinking very hot beverages may causes cancer of the oesophagus, the World Health Organisation warns
Previous research has suggested waiting at least four minutes before drinking a cup of freshly boiled tea, or more generally allowing foods and beverages to cool from ‘scalding’ to ‘tolerable’ before swallowing.

The IARC said in a statement today: ‘Studies in places such as China, Iran, Turkey and South America, where tea or mate is traditionally drunk very hot (at about 70°C) found the risk of oesophageal cancer increased with the temperature at which the beverage was drunk.

‘Drinking very hot beverages at above 65°C was classified as ‘probably’ carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A).’

Oesophageal cancer is the eighth most common cause of cancer worldwide and one of the main causes of cancer death, with approximately 400 000 deaths recorded in 2012 (5 per cent of all cancer deaths).

The proportion of oesophageal cancer cases that may be linked to drinking very hot beverages is not known.
Dr Wild added: ‘Smoking and alcohol drinking are major causes of oesophageal cancer, particularly in many high-income countries.

‘However, the majority of oesophageal cancers occur in parts of Asia, South America, and East Africa, where regularly drinking very hot beverages is common and where the reasons for the high incidence of this cancer are not as well understood.’