Everything you need to know about the link between hot drinks and cancer


Could your morning coffee cause cancer of the oesophagus?

Well, an agency of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has claimed very hot drinks probably do, but thankfully coffee is not on that list.

It was ruled there was "no conclusive evidence" that coffee itself causes cancer or that mate - a caffeine-rich drink typically enjoyed in South American countries - causes cancer at temperatures that are not very hot.

Here is everything you need to know about link between hot drinks and cancer.

Who has done the evaluation?

Woman drinks hot drink from a flask
(Jonathan Brady/PA)

Officials from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialist cancer arm of the World Health Organisation, conducted analysis on all the scientific literature on the subject.

What did they find?

The group of 23 international experts found "no conclusive evidence" that drinking coffee causes cancer. But experts did find that drinking very hot beverages "probably" causes cancer of the oesophagus.

What is considered hot?

(Anthony Devlin/PA)

65C (149F) or above is deemed to be "hot" in terms of the current analysis. Previous research suggests that the tea-loving British public prefers average temperatures of between 56-60C (132.8-140).

What is oesophageal cancer?

The oesophagus is the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. Cancer can develop in any part of the oesophagus.

According to Cancer Research UK, cancers in the upper part and middle part tend to be squamous cell carcinomas which develop from cells from the inner lining of the oesophagus. Cancers in the lower part of the oesophagus tend to be a type called adenocarcinoma which start in the gland cells.

Around 8,750 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer each year in the UK. The condition has become more common over the last four decades.

Wasn't coffee linked to bladder cancer?

(Anthony Devlin/PA)

When the IARC previously reviewed evidence on coffee and cancer in 1991 it was classified as "possibly carcinogenic to humans". Officials said this classification was based on limited evidence from studies that linked coffee to bladder cancer. The latest evaluation is based on a much larger and stronger body of evidence, they added.

What about tea?

Tea wasn't assessed in the latest evaluation. Previous IARC work concluded that tea is not carcinogenic.