Oesophageal cancer: WHO declares coffee as non-cancerous but reveals ‘very hot beverages’ may cause oesophageal cancer

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Coffee
A man walks out of a Starbucks coffee shop in Seoul, South Korea, March 7, 2016. Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

World Health Organisation’s (WHO) cancer agency, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has revealed that there is no conclusive evidence that drinking coffee causes cancer. This is kind of a reversal of the agency’s previous warning, which rated coffee as “possibly carcinogenic.” However, the agency did add that all “very hot beverages" are probably carcinogenic.

The WHO has concluded that coffee can no longer be considered a carcinogen. Moreover, the report says that coffee may actually have beneficial effects when it comes to two kinds of cancer – uterine and liver. The findings of the study were published in The Lancet Oncology.

An international Working Group of 23 scientists evaluated the carcinogenicity of drinking coffee, maté, and very hot beverages. The Working Group found no evidence of carcinogenic effects of drinking coffee although very hot beverages may cause cancer of the oesophagus in humans. No conclusive evidence was found for drinking maté at temperatures that are not very hot.

“These results suggest that drinking very hot beverages is one probable cause of oesophageal cancer and that it is the temperature, rather than the drinks themselves, that appears to be responsible,” IARC Director Dr. Christopher Wild said in the press release.

Thus, hot beverages including tea, coffee and water, about 65 degree Celsius and above, should be avoided. The IARC had previously put coffee in the 2B category alongside lead, chloroform and many other such substances. However, after reviewing more than 1000 studies in animals and humans, the Working Group found inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in coffee.

“Smoking and alcohol drinking are major causes of oesophageal cancer, particularly in many high-income countries. However, the majority of oesophageal cancers occur in parts of Asia, South America and East Africa, where regularly drinking very hot beverages is common and where the reasons for the high incidence of this cancer are not as well understood,” Wild added.