You’ve likely heard that drinking too much alcohol can increase your cancer risk. In fact, alcohol consumption is responsible for four percent of cancers worldwide. So if you feel like you’re doing your health a favor by opting for nonalcoholic drinks instead, you may be surprised to learn that one popular beverage, enjoyed by millions and often touted for its health benefits, may do more harm than good.
According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, drinking this daily can send your risk of one specific type of cancer soaring. Read on to discover which beloved beverage could potentially jeopardize your health with each sip.
READ THIS NEXT: 4 Habits That Are Scientifically Proven to Spike Your Cancer Risk.
How you choose to live your life is up to you. What you eat, what you drink, when you sleep, and whether or not you exercise are personal choices. However, your daily habits can dramatically impact your health and your risk of diseases like cancer. Sadly, cancer remains the second most common cause of death in America, right after heart disease—and lifestyle factors play a significant role.
According to a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, lifestyle factors that significantly influence cancer risk are tobacco use, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, and being obese or overweight. While it’s no secret that these habits significantly increase your cancer risk, another lesser-known factor can spike your chances of developing one specific type of cancer—and it could be something you do daily without knowing it.
READ THIS NEXT: Eating Too Much of This May Spike Your Liver Cancer Risk, New Study Says.
In addition to these risk factors, a large study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2018 found that consuming hot tea can increase your risk of esophageal cancer—the eighth most common cancer globally.
Researchers asked 456,155 people in China between the ages of 30 and 79 to complete a lifestyle questionnaire that asked about their tea-drinking habits, and found that scalding hot tea was linked to an increased risk of “squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus,” or cancer of the esophagus—the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Though the mechanism behind the link between hot tea and esophageal cancer isn’t known, research indicates that frequently consuming scalding liquids can damage the cells lining the esophagus. Specifically, drinking liquids at or above 149 degrees Fahrenheit (far hotter than a typical cup of tea) can lead to esophageal cancer.
“Hot temperature drinks affect the epithelial lining of the esophagus and might stimulate the endogenous (internal) formation of reactive nitrogen species, nitrosamines, causing cancer initiation and progression,” explains Liudmila Schafer, MD, FACP, a medical oncologist and the founder of The Doctor Connect.
While drinking hot tea at exceedingly hot temperatures can damage the lining of your esophagus and potentially lead to cancer, researchers observed that participants who consumed scalding hot tea in addition to smoking tobacco and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol had a five times greater risk of esophageal cancer. Not surprisingly, smokers are two times more likely than nonsmokers to develop esophageal cancer, and heavy drinking is associated with a substantially higher risk of the disease.
“In this study, scientists found that drinking tea at high temperatures is associated with an increased risk for esophageal cancer when combined with excessive alcohol or tobacco use,” explains Schafer. “However, epigenetics and different molecular mechanisms differ in ethnic groups, which can change this association’s outcome.”
For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
If you love a comforting mug of warm tea on a chilly morning, there’s no need to give up your favorite beverage. As long as you avoid smoking and don’t drink too much alcohol, you can enjoy tea while minimizing your cancer risk. Just keep an eye on the temperature and ensure you’re implementing other healthy habits, like regular exercise, eating a well-balanced diet loaded with fruits and vegetables, and not smoking or drinking too much.
Also, drinking tea in moderation offers several health benefits. “Teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, encourage weight loss, lower cholesterol, and bring about mental alertness,” says Schafer. “Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities. Moderate consumption of tea may protect against several forms of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, the formation of kidney stones, bacterial infections, and dental cavities.”