Drinking very hot drinks such as coffee or tea “probably” causes cancer, the UN has said.
It is believed the temperature, rather than the substance of the drinks, causes cancer of the oesophagus and becomes a risk once beverages have a temperature above 65C, AFP reports. The announcement follows a review of more than 1,000 scientific studies on whether there is a link between coffee and cancer, conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Christopher Wild, agency director, said: “These results suggest that 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.”
A spokesperson for the IARC said: ”Studies in places such as China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey and South America, where tea or mate is traditionally drunk very hot (at about 70C) found that the risk of oesophageal cancer increased with the temperature at which the beverage was drunk.
“Drinking very hot beverages at above 65C was classified as 'probably' carcinogenic to humans.”
In response to the findings, Casey Dunlop, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Most people in the UK don't consume drinks at the temperatures considered in this research, although very hot tea is a popular drink in Middle Eastern and other countries.
“There is some evidence that drinking very hot drinks over 65C may increase the risk of oesophageal (food pipe) cancer. So as long as you let your drink cool down a bit before you drink it, you're unlikely to be much at risk.”
The World Health Organisation is due to make a number of announcements today on health concerns and benefits of drinking hot beverages such as coffee. In 1991, the IARC announced coffee "possibly caused cancer". However, the health body is expected to revise that today to suggest other than concerns over temperature, there is insufficient evidence to say coffee itself causes cancer.
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