Linda from Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia asked:

Does drinking hot drinks cause throat cancer?

Drinking hot tea and cancer

Are there any known risks in drinking very hot drinks? Is it worse if you drink them from take away cups?

The source:
Our answer

People’s preferences for hot drinks vary widely in different countries and regions. The latest evaluation by the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that drinking very hot beverages (above 65°C) is probably a cause of oesophageal cancer. The evidence suggests that very hot temperatures, rather than the type of drink, may affect cancer risk. In high income countries, like Australia, tobacco and alcohol play a much larger role in causing oesophageal cancer than hot drinks. Studies in places such as China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey and South America, where tea or mate (a South American drink) is traditionally drunk very hot (within a minute or two after boiling the water, about 70°C) found that the risk of oesophageal cancer increased with the temperature at which the beverage was drunk. A British study showed that most people prefer drinking their tea at between 56 and 60°C (equivalent to about waiting 4–5 minutes after pouring), which is well under the temperatures found to increase throat cancer in the other studies. Researchers aren’t sure why very hot drinks might be linked to cancer, but it could be because the heat results in inflammation in the throat. Inflammation has been associated with an increased cancer risk. Experts advise that we do not need to stop drinking hot drinks, although it is recommended to let it cool for four minutes or so after boiling before drinking it. Adding milk cools the tea even more. Polystyrene and some other types of takeaway cups are designed to keep hot drinks very hot, so it is a good idea to let drinks cool a little longer in these types of cups to avoid scalding.

This page was last updated on: June 15, 2016
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