Hot Drinks and Cancer Link: Savannah doctor explains - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Hot Drinks and Cancer Link: Savannah doctor explains


Hot coffee or tea is a morning ritual for many of us. 

However, now a new classification by the cancer agency of the World Health Organization links very hot beverages to a possible increased risk of cancer.

"Hot liquids damage the esophagus to some extent and it tries to repair itself.  If you do it frequently enough, perhaps there is an abnormality in the DNA that occurs," said Dr. Howard Zaren, Medical Director, Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion, St. Joseph's/Candler.

Dr. Zaren says this new review is really talking about drinking scalding hot liquids. While there is some evidence to link hot drinks to cancer, he calls it "soft evidence" and says it could be a case of cause without causality.

"We've looked at this, we've looked at animal models, we really haven't seen a direct causation but there is some inference that if you don't have to do it, you probably shouldn't do it," he said.

He adds eating hot foods that burn your mouth should be avoided as well.

There is good news for Americans. The study found most of us don't consume liquids this hot on a regular basis.

"There's a higher incidence of esophageal cancer in Asia, India, those areas where they do drink really hot liquid as part of their daily living."

Dr. Zaren says if you are really concerned about esophageal cancer, eliminate the most common associated causes.

"I say if you're really worried about getting esophageal cancer, you should limit smoking and drinking alcohol."

If this all sounds like old news to you, this could be why. Coffee itself was classified as "probably carcinogenic" back in the early 1990's.

However, there was limited evidence then and new studies led to this new classification. So now, coffee itself is not linked to cancer, but rather the temperature at which it may be served.

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