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The Scoop on Very Hot Drinks and Cancer

Lately, the link between very hot drinks and cancer has been a HOT topic of discussion. Do hot drinks cause cancer? What about coffee? How hot is too hot?

So here's the lowdown. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization today reported that drinking extremely hot beverages is "probably carcinogenic to humans."

How hot is too hot?

Extremely hot means beverages above 149 degrees Fahrenheit or 65 degrees Centigrade. Drinking beverages at these temperatures is associated with an increased risk for developing esophageal cancer. Traditionally, scalding hot beverages are consumed in the Middle East, South America and East Africa in the forms of tea. The water is just below boiling (water boils at 100 degrees Centigrade, 212 degree Fahrenheit).

What's the evidence?

Though the findings are limited, studies performed in South America, Turkey, Iran and China reported positive correlations between esophageal cancers and extremely hot beverages. No association was found between coffee and mate served at lower temperatures and an increased risk for esophageal cancers.

So what does this mean about drinking hot tea and coffee?

Most hot beverages consumed in North America and Europe are drunk at temperatures about 10 degrees Centigrade lower than the hot tea and mate drunk in South America, the Middle East and East Africa. In fact, the according to Tea Advisory Panel in the UK, tea drunk in the UK is drunk at a lower temperature and is also often cooled with milk.

Coffee is back

In 1991, the International Agency for Research on Cancer called coffee "possibly carcinogenic"; however, that statement is no longer valid. Multiple studies report no relationship between coffee and an increased risk for cancer.

Do extremely hot liquids do anything to the palate?

Interestingly, extremely hot liquids may present in the hard palate as a diffuse white patch with papules or nodules in the center. This condition is called nicotine stomatitis and may result from smoking or from drinking extremely hot liquids.

What does all of this mean?

Of course the findings were limited, but if you are a fan of extra hot beverages, you might want to wait a bit for it to cool down before enjoying it.

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