Waiting a few minutes before drinking your hot tea may be more than simply avoiding a burnt tongue; it may even be a way to prevent throat cancer. A new study carried out in Northern Iran, where large amounts of hot tea are consumed on a daily basis, established a link between drinking very hot tea and an increased risk for cancer of the esophagus.
Hot is defined as having a temperature of 158°F (70°C), usually the temperature of freshly boiled tea. The study was published on the website of the British Medical Journal. The findings are not really meant to cause alarm, though; the general advice is to wait a little bit and allow foods and beverages to cool down before swallowing.
The esophagus is the muscular tube that carries anything that is taken in through the mouth – such as food and beverages – into the stomach. Cancers of the esophagus claims the lives of more than half a million people annually. The most common type of throat cancer is esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). The main cause of throat cancer in Europe and America is the use of tobacco and alcohol, but consuming hot beverages has also been thought to be a risk factor. Throat cancer is more common in men than in women.
The study was conducted in the Golestan province in Northern Iran, where there is a high incidence of OSCC but low rates of smoking and alcohol – the two most common risk factors. Women also possess the same risk factor as men. This led to the hypothesis that the consumption of hot beverages may be a third risk factor.
The results of the study showed that those who drank warm of lukewarm tea (149°F or less) and hot tea (between 149°F to just under 158°F) can be associated with a two-fold risk of esophageal cancer, while those who drink very hot tea can be associated with an eight-fold risk.
Don’t let this dampen your hot beverage drinking regimen, though. It is simply suggested that we wait about four minutes to allow food and beverage to cool down before swallowing.