For nearly 20 years there have been many arguments surrounding a controversial study released in 1991 linking coffee consumption to an increased risk of cancer. Many caffeine-lovers and skeptics alike noted that the study was based on little evidence, and a recent review on over 1,000 different studies examining the case found that drinking coffee did not increase your cancer risk more than any other hot beverage.

However, what researchers did find was that drinking any type of beverage, not just coffee, that is heated up to a certain temperature can increase your risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.

Warm Beverages and Cancer Risk


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According to a review conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), beverages heated above 65 degrees Celsius, 149 degrees Fahrenheit, are now classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The review, conducted by a multinational panel of experts, found that drinking beverages at or above this temperature can increase an individual’s risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, which is the eighth most common cancer worldwide.

Researchers found that drinking liquid at this temperature burns and leaves scalds on the esophagus, and has been attributed as the cause of cancer in this body part many times before. Beverages are not usually served at this temperature in North America or Europe, but are commonly consumed around this temperature in South America and the Middle East.

The findings came after analyzing 23 individual studies on the carcinogenicity of hot beverages commonly served around the world such as coffee, tea and maté, a leaf-infused drink commonly consumed in South America. These new classifications put hot drinks in the same cancer-category as lead, gasoline and exhaust fumes.

The evidence for this review came after studies in China, Iran, Turkey and South America (regions where drinks are commonly consumed at high temperatures) found an association between hot beverages and a risk of esophageal cancer.

“These results suggest that drinking very hot beverages is one probable cause of esophageal cancer and that it is the temperature, rather than the drinks themselves, that appears to be responsible,” Dr. Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer told CNN.

In 2012, esophageal cancer was responsible for around  5% of all cancer deaths worldwide, which was around 400,000 individuals. However, consumers of hot drinks in North America and Europe don’t have to worry, as they drink their beverages, on average, about 10 degrees lower than the cancer-causing limit. This, also with the fact that most people in these countries add milk or cream to their hot drinks, significantly lowers their risk of esophageal cancer.

For more information on foods that you didn’t know caused cancer, click here.


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