Not coffee or tea, but very hot drink causes cancer: WHO

United Nations, June 16 (IANS) Let that steaming cup of coffee — or tea — cool a little while you imbibe the good news and watch out for the bad about it.

Coffee, or tea, per se won’t cause cancer as previously thought, but drinking it very hot can lead to cancer of the oesophagus. Even hot water would, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported Wednesday.

The cancer risk has got to do with the temperature, not the drink itself and it applies not just to coffee but to all hot drinks — including water — according to findings by a team of cancer experts convened by it to study cancer links of beverages.

“These results suggest that drinking very hot beverages is one probable cause of oesophageal cancer and that it is the temperature, rather than the drinks themselves, that appears to be responsible,” says Dr Christopher Wild, Director of WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The scientists defined 65 degrees centigrade as very hot.

“Smoking and alcohol drinking are major causes of oesophageal cancer, particularly in many high-income countries,” Wild said.

“However, the majority of oesophageal cancers occur in parts of Asia, South America, and East Africa, where regularly drinking very hot beverages is common and where the reasons for the high incidence of this cancer are not as well understood.”

IARC back-tracked on a 1991 determination that coffee could possibly cause cancer in people. Now after thoroughly reviewing more than 1,000 studies in humans and animals, the scientists found that there wasn’t enough proof that coffee was responsible for cancers overall, WHO said.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at



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