Keep It Cool at Tea Time

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Keep It Cool at Tea Time

Reduce the risk of esophageal cancer

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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Do you like your tea hot? Don’t make it too hot. An international team of researchers working in Golestan Province, Iran, believes that inhabitants who drink their tea very hot suffer from an unusually high rate of esophageal cancer.

Of course, other factors contribute, too, like economic status, diet and oral hygiene. However, the residents of Golestan make for a good control group. They don’t smoke or drink alcohol, two habits that contribute to esophageal cancer in most other countries. But they do drink plenty of tea — 1.2 liters per day.

What is too hot? According to the study published in BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, scientists classified tea into warm, hot and very hot. Participants who drank their tea hotter than 158 degrees Fahrenheit showed an eightfold increase in the occurrence of esophageal cancer. In this particular type of cancer, it doesn’t appear that the chemicals in tea are causing the problem; it definitely seems to be the heat. Where tea drinking occurs at lower temperatures, cancer rates are lower, too.

Should you give up hot tea? No, just wait three to four minutes after pouring the boiling water before you sip. Don’t chug, either. The speed with which people drank their tea was also important. You could also add milk.

Not everyone is ready to recommend new tea habits. Nevertheless, since esophageal cancer kills more than 500,000 worldwide each year, researchers will be looking closely at studies that support earlier research in Japan, another geographical area with high rates of occurrence.  

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