Hot tea can increase the risk of a deadly cancer five-fold for people who also regularly drink alcohol, Chinese research suggests.
People who drink at least one alcoholic beverage and a "burning hot" cup of tea on a daily basis were five times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than people who drank tea at any temperature less than once a week, the study found.
The risks to smokers also increase with high-temperature tea drinking, said the study, which examined data on 456,155 Chinese adults ages 30 to 79. Drinking boiling hot tea every day was associated with roughly twice the risk of oesophageal cancer as consuming tea less than weekly for people who smoked.
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Both smoking and drinking alcohol are already widely-known to be linked to oesophageal cancer, but the new study, which appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, proved that very hot tea can increase the risks.
Lv Jun, of Peking University Health Science Centre in China, who co-authored the study, told The Telegraph: “Boiling hot tea will harm the cells in the oesophagus. “If the person also drinks alcohol and smokes, then the harm caused will be more heightened.”
At the start of the study, none of the participants had cancer. Researchers followed half of the participants for at least nine years.
During the study, 1,731 people developed oesophageal tumours.
Each year, oesophageal cancer – which killed Inspector Morse actor John Thaw – is diagnosed in around 9,000 people in the UK, and an estimated 15 per cent of patients who develop the cancer are still alive after five years.
Rates of the disease are relatively high in China, where tea drinking is common and many men smoke and drink.
Chinese people often drink tea from flasks that they carry with them to their workplace and regularly fill up with hot water.
Very few Chinese drink traditional British tea, which less hot than Chinese varieties as it also usually taken with cold milk.
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People in Russia, Turkey and South America enjoy their tea very hot, with many regularly drinking it at temperatures above 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius).
Past research has shown that tea can help to protect against tumours in the digestive tract.
But studies have also suggested that hot liquids and food can cause "thermal injury" which can increase the risk factors associated with cancer.
Additional reporting by Christine Wei