Have you ever asked for an extra hot americano in a café?
If it’s hotter than 60 degrees, you could be increasing your risk of developing oesophageal cancer, one of the deadliest in the UK. Forming from the lining of the oesophagus – the food pipe connecting your mouth with yours stomach – it’s the 14th most common cancer in adults, according to Cancer Research UK.
Roughly 9,300 people are diagnosed and 8,000 people die from it in the UK each year. Caught at stage one, there’s a roughly 50/50 chance of surviving more than five years after diagnosis. This drops to a 20% chance of living more than a year if it’s caught at stage four.
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You’re more likely to develop oesophageal cancer if you’re over 75, a man, or have certain medical conditions like long-term, severe acid reflux, according to the NHS. It’s rare in under-40s, and is often linked to being overweight or obese, smoking, or drinking more than 14 units a week, Cancer Research UK says.
These aren’t the only lifestyle choices affecting your risk. The cancer charity said: “Your risk of developing oesophageal cancer is increased if you drink tea, coffee or other drinks at hot temperatures.”
A study, part-funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the International Journal of Cancer, found people who prefer drinking team at 60C or hotter had a higher risk of oesophageal cancer than those who preferred it cooler than that.
This is because hot drinks can burn cells, leading to inflammation that increases the likelihood of cancer developing. This can be exacerbated by making damaged tissue more vulnerable to other causes of cancer, like the chemicals in tobacco smoke, according to Cancer Research UK.
However, the charity urged caution when assessing the impact of hot drinks on cancer risk because “crucially, 60C is likely to be a lot hotter than most cups of tea”. In addition to this, the study didn’t explore other risk factors – like smoking and eating habits – in detail.
Another study published in Annals of Internal Medicine and conducted in China with 450,000 participants, found an increased risk of oesophageal cancer in people who drank hot tea and smoke or regularly drank alcohol. it found no increase among people who drank hot tea but didn’t smoke or regularly drink.
To reduce risk of developing oesopheageal cancer, the NHS website recommends letting hot drinks cool down before drinking them “so they do not damage your oesophagus”, to reduce your chance of getting oesophageal cancer.
But cutting down on booze, weight and smoking will have more of an effect. Cancer Research UK said: “If you’ve accidentally burnt your mouth on a hot drink a few times before, this is unlikely to make much difference.”
According to the NHS, the main symptoms of oesophageal cancer are:
- problems swallowing (dysphagia) – you might feel pain or burning when you swallow, or food might stick in your throat or chest
- feeling or being sick
- persistent heartburn or acid reflux
- symptoms of indigestion, such as burping a lot
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