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Really hot drinks “probably” cause cancer, says the WHO

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If you enjoy a hot cup of tea or coffee in the morning, you might want to give it a few minutes to cool before sipping. Aside from avoiding scalding your tongue, you might prevent more serious damage. The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that hot drinks “probably” cause cancer.

These findings come after a group of scientists from ten countries met in Lyon, France at the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Their goal was to determine if drinking coffee, tea, or mate (a leaf infusion common in South America) cause cancer. According to a news release, they reviewed over 1000 studies on over 20 different kinds of cancer. They concluded that drinking beverages hotter that 149 degree Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius) is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

This puts hot drinks in the same category as consuming red meat, frying foods at high temperatures, and the human papillomavirus. However, CNN reports that it is the temperature specifically, and not necessarily the drinks themselves that are the problem. If you drink hot beverages, the temperature can cause scald burns in the esophagus, which can lead to increased risk of cancer in that area.

According to CNN, North Americans and Europeans don’t commonly drink these beverages at high enough temperatures for them to be a risk. South America, the Middle East, and East Africa are regions where hot drinks, especially tea, are consumed at or above the 149 degree Fahrenheit temperature.

Scientists downgraded a cup of coffee from “possibly carcinogenic” and hot mate from “probably carcinogenic” to safe for consumption as long as they aren’t consumed while scalding hot. So, you can still enjoy your morning cuppa.

Coffee drinkers can especially take comfort as the WHO has overruled its 1991 classification of coffee as “possibly carcinogenic.”  After reviewing the evidence, researchers found clear evidence that it is not carcinogenic (when served at an appropriate temperature) and may even protect against certain cancer.

For more information, read the full news release.

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