Are you a parent who loves drinking hot tea? Do you enjoy more than a glass of wine every day? Do you smoke? If you answered yes to all of these, we have some bad news for you: a study suggests there is a correlation between hot tea and cancer. But this occurs only when you add smoking or drinking alcohol into the mix.
Does this mean that your options for relieving the stress from parenting are now greatly reduced? Do you now need to say goodbye to a relaxing cup of tea? The answer is, not quite. Smoking and drinking are known to cause cancer. But drinking hot tea by itself doesn’t raise your risk of cancer. The solution is a little bit surprising: you may want to enjoy your tea a little cooler than you like.
Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the study revealed that people who drink hot or burning hot tea tend to have a two- to five-fold increase in esophageal cancer. But this is only true for those who smoke, drink alcohol and drink tea that’s too hot.
Correlation between hot tea and cancer
Esophageal cancer is the eighth most common cancer in the world. It is often fatal, and kills around 400,000 people a year, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Repeated injury to the esophagus often causes esophageal cancer. These throat injuries can come from smoke, alcohol, acid reflux, and (as the study suggests) hot liquids.
The study is the largest of its kind, following 456,155 Chinese adults ages 30 to 79. None of the participants had cancer at the start of the study. The researchers then followed half of the participants for up to nine and a half years.
Over the course of the study, they found that 1,731 people developed esophageal tumours.
Burning hot tea and cancer
The study’s researchers asked participants who drank tea on a weekly basis to describe their tea’s temperature: “warm,” “hot” “or “burning hot.”
If you’re a tea person, good news! Drinking “hot” or “burning hot” tea is not a predictor of esophageal cancer by itself. In fact, drinking tea has many health benefits.
But, if you smoke or drink alcohol and love your hot tea, bad news.
According to Jun Lv, smoking and drinking alcohol already cause esophageal cancer, so drinking “hot” or “burning hot” tea only raises the risk of cancer more. Lv, a professor at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Peking University, is the lead author of the study.
“Drinking hot tea contributed to cancer only when it clustered with smoking and drinking alcohol excessively,” Lv said.
The researchers defined “excessive alcohol consumption” as the consumption of 15g or more of alcohol a day. This is slightly more than the alcohol content of a 12oz glass of beer, a 5oz glass of wine, or a 1.5oz of distilled spirits.
As for tobacco, researchers define tobacco use as a person smoking one or more cigarettes per day.
Smoking, drinking, hot tea and cancer
High alcohol and tobacco consumption make the esophagus more vulnerable to cancer-causing agents when drinking very hot beverages.
“Irritating the lining of the esophagus could lead to increased inflammation and more rapid turnover of the cells,” Neil Freedman, senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, said. “Alternatively, hot liquids may impair the barrier function of the cells lining the esophagus, leaving the tissue open to greater damage from other carcinogens.”
This means that it’s not just hot tea that is the culprit, but hot drinks in general. Previous research suggests that esophageal cancer is correlated to drinking hot drinks with a temperature as high as 65 degrees Celsius.
A 2016 review in The Lancet Oncology classified drinks at this temperature as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Mums, you might want to be careful about your hot coffee habit as well! (But who are we kidding? It’s not like the little ones will let you finish a cup anyway.)
Good health in tea
Don’t give up on tea just yet. Experts have proven time and again that tea has many health benefits.
A 2009 study in the journal Nature Reviews Cancer revealed that tea leaves contain components with antioxidant properties. These may protect against other types of cancers, especially colon and prostate cancer. You may get esophageal cancer from the smoking, drinking and hot tea trifecta, but at least you lessen the risk of colon and prostate cancer.
“Tea is probably one of the most studied food and beverages in the world today,” researchers said. “Green tea has been shown to be a little more effective in cancer inhibition versus black tea, but black tea has been more effective in cardiovascular health.”
Keep away from smoking and drinking alcohol
So this doesn’t mean people should avoid drinking tea forever, because tobacco and alcohol use is obviously the problem here.
“Of course, keeping away from both tobacco and excessive alcohol use is the most important means for esophageal cancer prevention,” Lv added.
As parents, we should take care of our health in order to be better able to take care of our children. Smoking and alcohol abuse can not only affect our children’s health, these habits can also have a negative impact on your relationship with them. Eliminating smoking and curbing alcohol consumption can save both you and your children for years to come.
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