Beware! Very hot drinks could cause cancer

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Beware! Very hot drinks could cause cancer
It is not tea or coffee that has been associated with cancer risk, but the high temperatures

Dubai - Very hot drinks could be a probable cause for esophageal cancer


Asma Ali Zain

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Published: Mon 20 Jun 2016, 6:26 PM

Let your karak chai cool down before you drink it, advise doctors in the UAE following an announcement by the World Health Organisation's cancer agency that 'very hot' drinks could be a probable cause of esophageal cancer.
As a relief to coffee lovers, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), while making the announcement last week, changed its earlier stance and said there was no conclusive evidence that drinking coffee caused cancer.
Coffee is an integral part of Arabic hospitality while karak chai has gained immense popularity among Emiratis and residents in recent years. Both drinks taste best when piping hot but following the IARC announcement, doctors said very hot drinks could cause thermal injury to the esophageal lining.
"This issue must be taken in the proper context," explained Dr Amal Premchandra Upadhyay, Consultant Gastroenterology, and head of department of Internal Medicine at Aster Hospital.
"It is not the drink or beverage that has been associated with cancer risk, but the high temperatures that have been implicated," he said, adding that the probable mechanism was by way of producing repeated subliminal thermal injury to esophageal mucosa.
Dr Seejo George, Specialist ENT Surgeon, Medeor 24x7 Hospital, Dubai said moderation was key.
"No matter which variety of beverages is your favourite, be sure to let it cool down before you drink it," he advised.
"You'll know your beverage is a comfortable temperature when you can't feel it noticeably going down your throat. If the beverage feels scalding or very hot as you drink it, then it's probably too hot."
Citing studies, Dr Seejo said that drinking hot beverages (65-69 degree celsius) was associated with twice the risk of esophageal cancer, and drinking very hot beverages (70 degrees celsius or more) was associated with an eight-fold increased risk.
Dr Amal said the concept was not new and evidence from studies showed that this is true.
He said though people should be aware about this fact, they should also keep in mind that hot and warm beverages have their own set of good effects on the human physiology.
"For example, coffee has been associated with a protective effect on the liver and patients with cirrhosis who consume coffee regularly have lower risk of developing liver cancer," he explained.
He, however, advises that warm beverages should be cooled down to a comfortable temperature before sipping them.
"If tea and coffee are prepared systematically, then this problem could well be avoided. If I am not wrong, coffee is best prepared at around 85 degree C. On the other hand tea is often prepared in freshly boiling water, but tea leaves are required to be steeped in this water for a variable period of 2 to 5 minutes before they impart their flavour to the concoction. By this time, it is expected that temperatures would have fallen way below boiling point," he opined.
Esophageal cancer is the eighth most common cause of cancer worldwide and one of the main causes of cancer death, with around 400,000 deaths recorded in 2012. However, smoking and drinking alcohol were among the main reasons for cancer of the throat.

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