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Not so steamy! | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis

They say too much of a good thing can be bad Who doesn’t like to have a hot cup of tea or coffee? But if you like to have yours steaming or rather scalding hot, it’s better you cool it off a bit and then have it, especially if you’re a smoker and drink alcohol quite often. The reason being, it may increase the of chances of esophageal cancer. Read on to know more...


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That smoking and alcohol are linked to the cancer that begins in the oesopahgus is already known but these risks are greater with the addition of daily cups of “burning hot” tea, as per researchers. Smokers also face an increased risk with drinking tea at high temperatures, says the study that was conducted on 456,155 Chinese adults aged 30 to 79 years.

According to study authors, boiling hot tea will harm the cells in the oesophagus. If one also has alcohol and smokes as well, then the harm caused will increase. At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had cancer. Researchers observed half of the participants for at least nine years. During the study, 1,731 people developed oesophageal cancer. Rates of the disease are relatively high in China, where tea drinking is common and many men smoke and drink.


Dr Anil Heroor, oncologist, SRV Mamata Hospital agrees with the study, saying, “One of the causes of oesophageal cancer is intake of very hot beverages. Some people have a habit of drinking extremely hot tea or other beverages at high temperatures, which cause damage to the inner lining of the food pipe that is the mucosa (membrane) and if this happens repeatedly then this  causes oesophageal cancer.” Consuming very hot beverages can also cause Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) (when stomach acid used for digestion repeatedly refluxes into the esophagus). Repeated reflux can also can cause esophagus cancer.

Dr Farah Ingale, internal medicine, Hiranandani Hospital Vashi — A Fortis Network Hospital, too, agrees saying, “Yes, high temperatures cause oesophageal cancer (triggered by smoking, temperature alteration plus carcinogen / alcohol change in pH levels, which is not tolerable by normal mucosa). Drinking hot tea worsens the condition by adding fuel to the fire. Extremities of temperature can damage normal mucosa, usually leading to ulceration, these ulcerations form the base for cancer.”

On the other hand, Dr Avinash Deo, Medical Oncologist, S L Raheja Fortis Hospital, differs in his opinion saying that the study is a Chinese one. “Their tea drinking habits are different from ours (temperature at which they drink and no use of milk). The results may be correct for China but we may not be able extrapolate the findings to other parts of the world. In this study, habits were self-reported, which is subjective. Objective observations always carry more weight,” he reasons.

He furthers adds that the association of hot tea and oesophageal cancer was also found in Northern Iran. People from Northern China and Northern Iran have a very high risk of oesophageal cancer (the so called oesophageal cancer belt). Both have shown to have increased risk of oesophageal cancer with hot tea. However, it may not be applicable to other regions of the world. If you smoke and drink, you would be better off not taking hot tea. Not because it reduces the risk of cancer but because it is a simple intervention that may help. It’s a better idea to quit smoking and alcohol, which will definitely help.


Dr Heroor says that having very spicy food regularly can also be a reason for oesophagus cancer. There are certain regions in the country where people over there eat extremely spicy food like Assam and the border areas between Maharashtra and Karnataka. Dr Ingale says that most common reasons for oesophagus cancer in our country is tobacco chewing, smoking as well as alcohol consumption, she says.

Dr Deo says that oesophageal cancer is caused by smoking and drinking. A type of cancer, adenocarcinoma, occurs with a disease of the oesophagus — Barrett’s disease. Barrett’s oesophagus occurs because acid contents of the stomach enter the oesophagus. Many of these patients have ‘acidity’. As many as 50 per cent people may have no symptoms. Oesophageal cancer is also been associated with the use of a group of drugs known as bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates are given for  osteoporosis.

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