Avoid hot tea if you smoke and like a tipple, scientists warn
Hot tea and heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk of a deadly cancer five-fold, research has shown.
Oesophageal cancer was already known to be linked to drinking alcohol and smoking, but those risks are heightened by the addition of daily cups of "burning hot" tea, scientists discovered.
Oesophageal cancer, which affects the food-pipe or gullet, is notorious for poor survival rates.
Each year the disease is newly diagnosed in around 9,211 people in the UK and causes almost 7,800 deaths.
An estimated 15% of patients who develop the cancer are still alive after five years. The disease ended the life of Inspector Morse actor John Thaw.
The new tea warning emerged from China, where researchers followed the progress of 456,155 participants aged 30 to 79 for around nine years.
High-temperature tea drinking combined with either alcohol consumption or smoking was associated with a greater risk of oesophageal cancer than hot tea alone.
Dr Canqing Yu and colleagues from the National Natural Science Foundation of China wrote in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine: "Compared with participants who drank tea less than weekly and consumed fewer than 15g of alcohol daily, those who drank burning hot tea and 15g or more of alcohol daily had the greatest risk for oesophageal cancer."
Combined with excess alcohol consumption, hot tea raised the relative risk of developing the disease five times, the study found. Current smokers who drank hot tea daily doubled their risk.
Previous research had suggested that "thermal injury" caused by drinking hot liquids could increase the danger from other risk factors, said the researchers.
They concluded: "Abstaining from hot tea might be beneficial for preventing oesophageal cancer in persons who drink alcohol excessively or smoke."
UK experts urged people not to develop a terror of tea, pointing out that the scalding hot cuppa was not a British tradition.
Prof Andrew Sharrocks, from the University of Manchester, said: "We tend to drink tea at lower temperatures in the West than in China, which is less damaging to the oesophagus.
"So, although the study might be relevant to populations in the China, it is less relevant in the West in terms of a causative factor.
"That said, there may be individuals out there who do drink very hot tea (with excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption as well) and hence might be more at risk of developing this cancer."