Very hot drinks could make the esophagus more vulnerable to known cancer-causing agents such as alcohol and smoke, Freedman said. In an accompanying editorial, the authors of the study quote the 1930's NY physician WL Watson: "The drinking of copious amount [s] of excessively hot tea is a history frequently obtained from Russian-born patients coming to Memorial Hospital suffering from cancer of the esophagus". However, the absence of both excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, daily tea drinking was not associated with esophageal cancer risk.
The research found there was little risk from hot drinks consumed at temperature below 65 degrees (149 degrees fahrenheit).
Drinking extremely hot tea may increase the risk of oesophageal cancer by up to five times, especially if a person also consumes alcohol and is a smoker, a study has warned.
Although the study showed no higher odds of esophageal cancer in participants who drank only tea every day - scalding or not - the study authors emphasize that "chronic thermal injury to the esophageal mucosa may initiate carcinogenesis", or the change of normal cells to cancer cells.
In an editorial Dr Farin Kamangar of the Morgan State University and Dr Neal Freedman of the National Cancer Institute, both in Maryland. said the idea that hot drinks may cause the cancer dates to the 1930s.
Hot tea is a staple beverage in winter time; it can help to keep us warm and soothe sore throats.
This study has some limitations.
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"Drinking tea at a lower temperature should not be considered as a replacement for smoking cessation and limiting alcohol intake", Freedman said by email. "However, the results of this study should not cause people to abandon their favourite beverages". This cohort study of 456 155 participants based in China had a median follow-up of 9.2 years.
People were only asked about tea, alcohol and tobacco consumption at the start of the study.
The reports about alcohol, tobacco and tea consumption weren't independently verified.
Even in this sample, oesophageal cancer was relatively rare - and the absolute increase in risk from hot tea was quite small.
For non-drinkers and non-smokers, the risk was less than 0.5 per 1,000 per year, regardless of how much tea they drank or how hot they drank it. Milk or tea first? It is also by far, the biggest consumer of tea in the world. These three factors could "complicate" the risks for developing this disease.
It'd be fair to say that for some people (including me) the drink is more of an obsession.