The study, published in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine, was conducted by Chinese researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Peking University.
The study collected data from a total of 456,155 Chinese participants aged between 30 and 79 and lasted for an average period of more than nine years.
By 2015, it found that 1,731 people who didn’t have cancer at the initiation of the study were diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
“High-temperature tea drinking combined with either alcohol consumption or smoking was associated with a greater risk for esophageal cancer than hot tea drinking alone,” said the study.
People who drank both burning hot tea and more than a standard serving of 15g of alcohol daily were five times as likely to develop esophageal cancer than those who drank tea and alcohol less frequently, the study showed.
Likewise, it said, current smokers who drank burning hot tea daily were twice as likely to develop cancer.
Hot beverages at temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius could impair the barrier function of the cells lining one’s gullet, or food pipe, thus making it more vulnerable to cancer-causing agents or existing inflammation, CNN quoted Neal Freedman, a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, as saying.
However, the study said no increase in esophageal cancer risk was seen among participants who drank hot tea if they did not drink more than 15g of alcohol daily and smoke tobacco.
In fact, early clinical studies suggest that polyphenols, the natural plant compounds found in tea, may play an important role in the prevention of cancer, as researchers believe that polyphenols help kill cancerous cells and stop them from growing, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
In that sense, tea lovers need not give up their hobby so long as they consume tea at temperatures below 65 degrees Celsius and avoid excessive alcohol or tobacco use.