Having a quick brew may seem like the perfect way to relax while having a break at work.
But taking a sip too soon after the kettle has boiled may cause more harm than good.
People who drink at least two cups of hot tea a day see their risk of gullet cancer nearly double, a study has found. But the danger could be reduced by leaving it longer before drinking.
Researchers found those who drink their tea less than two minutes after it is ready have a 51 per cent higher risk of gullet cancer than those who leave it for six minutes or more.
They found the risk was 90 per cent higher for people drinking at least two cups of tea a day, or 700ml, at 60C or hotter, compared to those drinking lesser amounts of cooler tea.
The study tracked more than 50,000 tea drinkers in Iran, aged 40 to 75, for an average of ten years. During this time 317 people were diagnosed with cancer of the gullet, also known as the oesophagus. The research, published in the International Journal of Cancer, says very hot liquids may damage the oesophagus and let potentially cancerous substances in.
Dr Farhad Islami, who led the study from the American Cancer Society, said it is ‘advisable to wait until hot beverages cool down before drinking.’ Brits prefer to drink tea at an average temperature of 56 to 60C, surveys suggest, but regular tea drinkers, older people and those who drink alcohol tend to prefer their cups of tea at hotter temperatures.
Georgina Hill, from Cancer Research UK, advised: ‘As long you’re letting your tea cool down a bit before you drink it, or adding cold milk, you’re unlikely to be raising your cancer risk.’
Dr James Doidge, from University College London, said: ‘If… we take the results of this study on face value, then we are talking about an additional lifetime risk of oesophageal cancer of around one in 100. Not an insubstantial risk but one that should be balanced against the pleasure that you personally derive from your daily ritual, the unknown but probably smaller gains that you would get from changing your habit now, and the fact that if you don’t develop oesophageal cancer then something else will surely be along to fill that role sooner or later.
‘By focusing on the more general risk factors of smoking, obesity and alcohol, you can lower your risk of a whole range of cancers at once.’