Spilling The Tea: Piping Hot Is Not So Cool

Drinking tea is usually associated with healthy eating, but according to a study from the International Journal of Cancer, if the warm beverage is served too hot, it may lead to esophageal cancer.

With the American Cancer Society estimating that there will be “approximately 17,650 new cases of esophageal cancer” in 2019, and 16,080 of those cases resulting in death, it is important to understand why tea and other factors may affect those numbers.

According to the study, previous examinations found that hot tea might increase the risk of esophageal cancer, but this study found that hot tea more than doubles the risk.

“Tea drinkers who liked their beverage to be warmer than 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) and consumed more than 700 ml of tea per day -- about two large cups -- had a 90 percent higher risk of esophageal cancer, when compared to those who drank less tea and at cooler temperatures,” an article from CNN explains.

Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer, and it occurs in more men than women. Its classification is determined by the type of cells involved.

The most common type of esophageal cancer in the United States is adenocarcinoma. It “begins in the cells of mucus-secreting glands in the esophagus,” according to the Mayo Clinic. This type occurs more in the lower part of the esophagus.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is another form of cancer occurring in the upper part of the esophagus and is the most dominant kind of this cancer worldwide.

Every year, esophageal cancer kills around 400,000 people globally, but tea isn’t solely to blame.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Factors that cause irritation in the cells of your esophagus and increase your risk of esophageal cancer include:

  • Having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Smoking
  • Precancerous changes in the cells of the esophagus
  • Obesity
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Bile reflux
  • Difficulty swallowing because of an esophageal sphincter that won't relax
  • Having a steady habit of drinking very hot liquids
  • Lack of fruits and vegetables in a diet
  • Radiation treatment to the chest or upper abdomen

Similar to many other diseases, there are steps to take in order to protect your body from harm. The American Cancer Society recommends avoiding tobacco and alcohol, being conscious about your diet and being treated regularly if there is any concern.   

As for tea, you can continue to enjoy it! Just be cautious when it comes to how high the temperature gets.​