Did you know that drinking hot beverages may cause esophageal cancer among other maladies?
Research from scientists in Iran suggests that common hot drinks could be linked to esophageal cancer—a result of “thermal injury.” A paper published in the International Journal of Cancer dug deeper into this relationship.Read More
The study acknowledged that previous work had already identified an “association between hot tea drinking and risk of cancer.” But this investigation took things a step further—it found that people in Iran who drank their tea hotter than 140 degrees Fahrenheit had a greater risk of developing a common kind of esophageal cancer which is esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).
“Our results substantially strengthen the existing evidence supporting an association between hot beverage drinking and ESCC,” the authors wrote. This study was different than previous work because it used objective measures of tea temperature. Additionally, most previous studies on the association between tea temperature and cancer risk “have been of retrospective design, which may be prone to recall bias.”
Analyzing the combined effects of the temperature and amount of the liquid consumed, the study found that people who drink at least three cups of tea a day at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter increase their risk of developing esophageal squamous cell carcinoma by about 90%.
Understanding Esophageal Cancer
The esophagus is the tube connecting the throat to the stomach. Esophageal cancer is rare and it is often difficult to diagnose. The disease is more common in men than women in the United States. Of more than 20,000 cases of esophageal cancer expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, about 4,000 will be diagnosed in women, according to the American Cancer Society.
It is also important to note that some people confuse esophageal cancer with throat cancer, but they are, in fact, different. The cause of most esophageal cancer is unknown — though some risk factors like tobacco use can increase the likelihood of developing this cancer. On the other hand, the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted virus also known as HPV, is known to cause most throat cancers.
What kinds of treatment options are available for people with esophageal cancer?
Dr. Raja Flores, chairman of thoracic surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview that esophageal cancer is often diagnosed in the later stages, meaning it has spread to distant parts of the body.
“Of (all the cases diagnosed in the U.S. per year), only about 1,000 get surgery because the majority of them are identified at such a late stage,” he says.
Esophageal cancer is often diagnosed so late because its symptoms can be mistaken for symptoms of less severe conditions. Some of these symptoms include weight loss, difficulty swallowing, and heartburn (also known as acid reflux), according to Dr. Brendon Stiles, chief of thoracic surgery at Montefiore Medical Center.
Things like acid reflux are generally not cause for any serious concern, but it is important to communicate any issues with your doctor. The more proactive you are about your health, the more likely you are to catch it early if something more serious arises.