The World Health Organization has announced that the cancer risk classification for coffee has been reduced. However, International Agency for Research on Cancer also say ‘very hot’ drinks pose potential risk for oesophageal cancer.
In 1991 the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave coffee a cancer-classification due to the concern of a possible link with urinary bladder cancer. However, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have now announced that there is ‘no consistent evidence’ to support coffee’s previous group 2A classification. Coffee’s hazard rating has now been downgraded from ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ to ‘not classifiable’ (group 3) as a substance known to cause cancer.
The panel of 23 scientists announced a new potential connection between ‘very hot beverages’ (over 65°C) and oesophageal cancer. The serious type of cancer affects the gullet, which is part of our digestive system. IARC director, Dr Christopher Wild, underlines the fact that smoking and alcohol consumption are the ‘major causes of oesophageal cancer, particularly in many high-income countries’. Nevertheless, ‘the majority of oesophageal cancers occur in parts of Asia, South America, and East Africa’ continues Wild, ‘where regularly drinking very hot beverages is common and where the reasons for the high incidence of this cancer are not as well understood.’
Examining studies of communities who traditionally consume drinks at high temperatures (about 70°C), within places such as China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey, and South America, the researchers found limited evidence to suggest that the risk of oesophageal cancer increased with drinks consumed at higher temperatures. No specific link was found between oesophageal cancer and maté, a popular infusion of yerba mate leave in Argentina, when the drink is consumed at low temperatures. However, maté is normally drunk at a higher temperature (70°C); which could potentially increase a person’s risk. Within animal trials, the researchers also found ‘limited evidence for the carcinogenicity of very hot water’.
Whilst recent research suggests that drinking coffee can be good for us, protecting against heart disease, Parkinson’s and type 2 diabetes – the way we drink our morning latte could be very important. To avoid the potential cancer risk of drinking scalding coffee, experts are recommending allowing very hot drinks to cool for at least five minutes. Adding cold milk also helps hot drinks return to safe levels of under 65 °C. So next time I go to grab my daily coffee hit, I’ll have mine iced.