Study Says Super-Hot Coffee and Tea 'Probably' Cause Cancer

Bad news for those who like their lattes scorching hot.

Jun 17 2016, 5:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Alvin Trusty

The list of foods that might give you cancer has grown pretty long, with everything from white bread to bacon to pizza crust all potentially carcinogenic. But now, a new study says that there's even danger in the innocuous brew that you wake up to every morning.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer published a review on Wednesday revealing that very hot beverages are "probably carcinogenic." The drinks qualified as "very hot" in the study are over 149 degrees Fahrenheit or 65 degrees Celsius, temperatures that drinks in America and Europe rarely reach. But in South America, parts of Africa, and the Middle East, drinks are often served at scalding hot temperatures above this threshold.

Hot drinks above 150 degrees Fahrenheit can burn your throat, contributing to the risk of esophageal cancer, the eighth-most-common cancer worldwide. The 149-degree Fahrenheit mark is hot enough to burn your tongue on contact, so you should know if what you're drinking falls into this carcinogenic category. Yes, that burning feeling is probably bad in ways beyond just an "oww."

In the past, coffee was labeled as possibly carcinogenic by the World Health Organization, but today's report gave coffee itself a clean bill of health. It's only coffee served stupid-hot that is problematic.

"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," said Christopher Wild, the director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

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Teas are often served well above the 149 degrees Fahrenheit threshold in some parts of the world, and the researchers say it explains why cancer of the esophagus is more common in certain countries.

"Smoking and alcohol-drinking are major causes of esophageal cancer, particularly in many high-income countries," said Wild. "However, the majority of esophageal 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."

As outside temperatures rise, you're probably not thinking about pouring hot cancer juice down your throat. But if you needed any more excuses to justify shelling out $4 for an iced coffee, add cancer to the list.

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