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Smokers And Drinkers Who Like Hot Tea Have Increased Cancer Risk

Feb 2, 2018

A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine has potentially devastating news for people who smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol every day… and also drink hot tea. Their risk for cancer appears increased.

Throat Irritants And Esophageal Cancer

The Annals of Internal Medicine is a prestigious medical journal, and they’ve published the results of a new study that has been grabbing headlines. The major takeaway from the study is that there is a strong correlation between hot tea drinkers who smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol daily; and esophageal cancer. Now, that’s a pretty specific combination of factors, so let’s break down exactly what’s being said here.


According to the study, the following factors need to add up to correlate to increased risk of esophageal cancer:

  • Smoke cigarettes OR drink alcohol every day
    • Interestingly, the correlation holds true whether the individual was a daily cigarette smokerĀ or a daily alcohol user. We’ll get to exactly why that is in a minute, but for now we can count these two as meeting the same criteria.
  • Drink hot tea regularly
    • The study was quick to note that the correlation only exists in people who drink tea considered “hot” or “burning hot” – if you prefer to drink your tea once it’s cooled down quite a bit, this may not be as much of a concern for you. However, the tea temperature in the study was self-reported by the tea drinkers on a scale from cold to burning hot. It wasn’t strictly temperature controlled to the degree.


Have you found the common factor in these three things yet? If you guessed the fact that they’re all throat irritants, you may have hit on to the same hypothesis as this group of researchers. Their belief based on the data is that the repeated combination of these throat irritants stack up over time and can lead to esophageal cancer taking root. Think about it: smoking cigarettes is obviously quite hard on your throat (among other things) and known to cause cancers by itself. But when you’re also putting harsh alcohol and “burning hot” tea down your throat each day, you’re simply putting more stress on that area than it’s biologically designed to bear.


Do You Need To Quit Drinking Tea?

As mentioned before, it’s best not to freak out over this revelation, particularly if you’re not a daily cigarette smoker or alcohol user. Also, the researchers were careful to note that the correlation did not exist in tea drinkers who waited until the tea was warm or room temperature. It was most correlated with esophageal cancer in “burning hot” tea drinkers.


In fact, tea is quite good for you! In addition to its antioxidant properties, it’s been shown to correlate with cancer protection for certain cancers. But in this case, it’s not the tea itself that’s carcinogenic: it’s the temperature at which it’s being consumed, in combination with some other damaging irritants (cigarette smoke, alcohol). All that being said, if you have to choose between cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, or drinking piping hot beverages, the hot liquid is still the least damaging of all those factors. By far, if you are hoping to put yourself in a position to avoid esophageal cancer, the best thing you can do is avoid those other two things.


In the meantime, if you’re used to taking your tea extremely hot, maybe consider cooling it down a few times a week!