If you’ve just sat down with a lovely cup of tea, perhaps you want to have a rethink of your daily routine, as new research has found that people who consume hot drinks regularly are nearly three times more likely to develop throat cancer.
Of course, we have to take these things with a pinch of salt (although, that has been said to cause cancer too, apparently), so there’s no reason to be unduly concerned, but the boffins at Cambridge University have been toiling away, so it’s only fair that we hear them out.
In the UK, around 10,000 people each year are diagnosed with esophageal cancer, but apparently you can reduce your risk factor by giving up hot drinks.
The study was quite a big one, taking in data from more than half a million Brits through the UK Biobank in order to ascertain who drank more coffee than others and then assessing their cancer risk.
Speaking to The Telegraph, the study’s author Dr Stephen Burgess said: “We know the genetic score that we're looking at increases predisposition to drinking coffee, but it also increases propensity to drinking more tea as well.”
Publishing their findings in journal Clinical Nutrition, the results showed that consumption of coffee doesn’t increase the likelihood of any cancers other than esophageal.
Those who did drink more coffee and tea were 2.8 times – nearly three, remember? – times more likely to develop that specific cancer than those who refrain from the hot drinks.
In addition to whether they drank coffee or tea in the first place, the study also asked participants whether they liked to have their brew ‘warm’, ‘hot’ or ‘very hot’.
It turns out that the temperature at which you like your drink is a factor as well, with those answering ‘warm’ 2.7 times more likely, ‘hot’ 5.5 times more likely, and ‘very hot’ 4.1 times more likely to develop throat cancer.
We can’t say exactly whether the amount is a risk factor, as the participants weren’t asked exactly how much they drink.
Dr Burgess said: “There was evidence for a causal effect of coffee increasing esophageal cancer, even in people who have self-reported preference for warm drinks,”
The probable cause of all this is that the hot drinks damage the throat, therefore increasing the likelihood of dangerous cells forming.
The doctor added: “It seems to be that thermal injury is the most plausible hypothesis, and that would explain why we're seeing evidence of effect even in coffee non-drinkers who we assume would be tea drinkers,
“It would be unreasonable to say that this is telling people ‘instead of coffee, you should drink tea instead and you'll be perfectly okay’.
“I think that's the opposite to what we're actually saying. It appears to be thermal injury rather than anything specific about coffee or caffeine.
“Avoiding drinking coffee at too high a temperature is really the conclusion. If you are feeling as if there's this damage to your throat, then that's something which is worth being aware of and potentially dialling back on.”
Still, there’s no reason to be too worried even if you are a hot drink enthusiast.
“I think overall it's good news for coffee drinkers that actually coffee was not associated with most forms of cancer and certainly the most common forms of cancer,” Burgess concluded.
Another member of the team, Dr Susanna Larsson, added: “Our findings strengthen the evidence that coffee consumption has a neutral effect on risk of common cancers.”