Take It Easy, Your Hot Drink Is Unlikely to Cause Cancer
The World Health Organization announced today that hot drinks are likely to cause cancer . This does not mean that hot coffee in your hand will kill you now. This announcement contains many caveats, and most of us probably don’t get it.
First, a quick reminder of what “likely causes cancer” really means . The WHO Cancer Research Group places items on this list if they “probably” have something to do with cancer, even very small or weak ones. Very hot drinks share this list with the pesticide glyphosate, but also red meat and shift work that disrupts your body’s sense of night and day . Very hot drinks news is published alongside an editorial, which says that just because the WHO calls something carcinogenic does not mean everyone agrees.
There is even good news in this announcement: coffee and another hot caffeinated drink, mate , are no longer considered carcinogens by WHO. Coffee is really good for your health , so it’s okay to keep drinking your cup. This means that such headers, while not incorrect, look much scarier than they actually are:
The problem that the WHO has identified is that the temperature of the drink appears to increase the risk of esophageal cancer. The evidence is also not ironclad. Here’s how they describe their findings:
This was based on limited data from epidemiological studies that showed a positive association between esophageal cancer and very hot drinks. Studies in places such as China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey and South America, where tea or mate is traditionally drunk very hot (around 70 ° C), have shown that the risk of esophageal cancer increases with the temperature at which the drink is consumed.
There has also been limited evidence in animal experiments that very hot water is carcinogenic.
“Smoking and alcohol consumption are major causes of esophageal cancer, especially in many high-income countries,” stresses [IARC Director Christopher] Wilde. … The proportion of esophageal cancer cases that may be associated with very hot drinks is not known.
How hot is “very hot”? The temperature of 70 degrees Celsius, set by the WHO, is around 160 degrees Fahrenheit, within the range that coffee shops typically serve. However, by the time your drink cools down, it is likely below that level. CNN reports that Americans and Europeans generally don’t drink hot enough drinks to be considered more dangerous. However, if you want to be sure of the temperature of the drink, consider adding some milk or ordering it at baby temperature .
IARC Monographs Evaluate the Use of Coffee, Mate, and Very Hot Drinks | World health organization
Photo taken by waferboard .