The researchers found that people who regularly drank hot tea, smoked and drank alcohol had the highest esophageal cancer risk.
Heavy alcohol drinkers are considered to be those who consume more than 15grams of alcohol per day, while smokers are defined as smoking more than one cigarette per day.
"Tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as the chemical compounds and adverse thermal effect of hot tea, considerably complicate the association between tea drinking and cancer risk", researchers said. In addition, the researchers only had data on tea habits when people first joined the study, which means that the effect of changing tea habits on cancer risk is unknown.
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Many of us enjoy a hot cup of tea, but could we be putting ourselves at risk without knowing it?
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.
China is among the countries with the highest incidence of esophageal cancer, researchers note in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Tobacco and alcohol are known risk factors for cancer of the esophagus - the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. It is often caused by repeated injury to the esophagus because of smoke, alcohol, acid reflux, and possibly hot liquids as suggested by the new study.
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Esophageal cancer is increasing in prevalence and has poor survival rates, particularly in less-developed regions and for men.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer recently classified drinking beverages hotter than 149 F as "probably carcinogenic to humans", the authors point out.
Tea drinkers who smoked increased their chances by 56 percent. Similarly, the HR was 2.03 (CI, 1.55 to 2.67) for participants who consumed burning-hot tea daily and were current smokers.
The study was only observational, so a cause-and-effect link can not be determined. This cohort study of 456 155 participants based in China had a median follow-up of 9.2 years. Drinking tea is unlikely to be the biggest of their health problems.
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It'd be fair to say that for some people (including me) the drink is more of an obsession. For the people who find it hard to do so, avoiding burning-tea is the alternative solution.