If we were not already living in a continuous fear, the World Health Organization added to our dreads and declared that hot beverages are probable cancer triggers. Now what? Well, read on 'till the end and find out for yourself about this latest addition to the list of cancer-causing foods.
Can you imagine a life without that hot cuppa? NO!
But what's the fun if it risks your life! Point!
So read on carefully, it's better to be safe than sorry. Cool!
The cancer agency of WHO, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) consisting of 23 scientists from 10 countries reviewed around 1,000 studies based on high-temperature beverages and their potential link to cancer in humans.
The evidence pointed towards a high possibility of cancer on drinking very hot beverages. They found higher rates of oesophageal cancer among humans who drank extremely hot beverages like tea or coffee. Their conclusion was published in Lancet Oncology.
Beverages that exceeded 149F or 65C are considered very hot and can make you an easy prey to the cancer of oesophagus.
The studies that IARC based their conclusion on mostly looked at very hot beverages like maté. The studies showed a connection between this drink and oesophageal cancer when served at a very hot temperature.
Maté is a type of tea (herbal), also known as chimarrão or cimarrón that is supposed to be consumed piping hot traditionally, mainly in Asia, South America, and Africa. South America has more cases of oesophageal cancer than any other part of the world.
Maté isn't hazardous to health but it's the temperature at which it is drunk traditionally – more than 149F/65C – that links it to oesophageal cancer.
The major risk factors for oesophageal cancer in the United States of America include alcohol and tobacco products, besides drugs. The list of potential cancer-causing foods includes 79 substances so far; fried foods, red and processed meat, DDT, and human papillomavirus being the latest additions.
The report published in the study of hot beverages and their link to cancer mentions that coffee is safe compared to other hot beverages, though the analysis of 1991 found coffee as a trigger for bladder cancer. "The available scientific evidence base is much larger and stronger. There are quality studies available today that are significantly better than those in 1991", says Dana Loomis, deputy head of IARC. (source)
The analysis of hot beverages raising the chances of oesophageal cancer contradicts the above conclusion about coffee. Most people like their coffee hot and mentioning it safe sounds a little obscure, when talking about the danger hot beverages pose to humans. People who consume more coffee have lower rates of cancers like endometrial and liver cancer. "That's not where hot beverages hit. Hot beverages hit the mouth, throat, oesophagus and stomach", says Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer at the American Cancer Society.
This implies that drinking coffee at a not so high temperature is safe as there is no evidence pointing to any risks of cancer except oesophageal cancer (when drinking the beverage at an extremely high temperature).
As per the National Coffee Association, it is recommended to hold coffee at 180-185F. Most of the coffee chains serve their hot beverages at around 10 degrees below this temperature. However, this is still too high a temperature if you want to avoid the risk of cancer.
People who love drinking hot beverages in Europe and US need not worry about contracting oesophageal cancer as in these countries, coffee and tea are usually served below 60C. Maté in South America and tea in Iran are served at 70C, which is indeed very hot. Dr. Loomis says, "Mate is not only prepared very hot, but drunk through a metal straw that delivers it directly into the throat."
Studies conducted on animals showed that very hot water can promote tumor growth. "It appears that there is thermal injury from exposure to hot liquids that is capable of leading to cancer of the esophagus," says Dr. Loomis. (source)
Though hot beverages are potential carcinogens, it is the alcohol and tobacco that are the major risk factors for people. "I would say anybody who drinks alcohol shouldn't even worry about this because alcohol is far more of a cancer-causer than coffee or hot drinks," says Dr. Brawley. "Anybody who smokes cigarettes also shouldn't worry about this because cigarettes are a far greater cause of cancer than alcohol."
You got it wrong, mate. You don't need to quit hot beverages; all you need is to let them cool down a bit before sipping.
Alternatively, add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, which in turn will boost your health. Quit alcohol, tobacco, and drugs if you want a healthy life ahead.
The news was not all that bad, thank heavens!