Piping Hot Beverages May Contribute to Esophageal Cancer

Study finds risk from drinking coffee, tea, or other beverages at higher temperatures.

Drinking hot coffee, tea, or yerba mate at temperatures that exceed 149 degrees Fahrenheit may increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer, a study published in The Lancet found.

The National Coffee Association states that coffee waiting to be served should rest at 180 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit to be considered safe, but there are still places that serve the beverages at higher temperatures.

“Enjoy your coffee or mate, but make sure it’s not very hot,” said researcher Mariana Stern. “There is physical evidence that very hot beverages can contribute to cell injury in the esophagus, and thus contribute to cancer formation.”

During the study, Stern and 22 other scientists from 10 countries examined more than 1000 studies on more than 20 different types of cancer.

Researchers concluded that drinking beverages hotter than 149 degrees Fahrenheit is probably carcinogenetic to humans. This places hot drinks with extreme temperatures in the same category as DDT, eating red meat, the human papillomavirus, and frying food at high temperatures.

Authors noted that it is common for certain countries in South America to drink yerba mate at temperatures between 150 and right below 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The team of scientists ended up downgrading coffee from possibly carcinogenic and hot mate from probably carcinogenic, classifications made in 1991 by the World Health Organization, to safe for consumption if it is not scalding hot.

Additionally, coffee that is consumed at safe temperatures can improve health. Researchers estimated that 1 cup of coffee daily decreases the risk of developing liver cancer by 15%.

“For many cancer types, we found clear evidence that coffee is not carcinogenic,” Stern said. “In fact, we found that coffee protects against some cancers such as liver and uterine endometrium cancer.”