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WHO coffee cancer

The WHO’s important announcement in the ‘Coffee: Healthy or Not?’ debate:

If you’ve been following the coffee studies in recent years, you’re probably aware that coffee has racked up a good amount of evidence to its health benefits, from heart health to cancer risk reduction.

And following this, the World Health Organization (WHO) has moved coffee off the list of possible carcinogens, to match the growing evidence for its benefits, or at least, lack of detriments. But now, they say, there’s another culprit in town, which may be associated with coffee and tea: heat.

Drinking too-hot beverages, say the experts from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), may be linked to oesophageal cancer. The research is based on limited evidence, however, and the experts remind people that there are worse carcinogens (like alcohol) when it comes to this form of cancer.

But if you’re worried, the advice would be simple: Just wait for your beverage to cool down.

Coffee was previously classified by IARC as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans, putting it in the same group as engine exhaust and chloroform.

Now, based on a larger, updated body of research including over 1,000 studies in animals and people, there is apparently “inadequate evidence” to suggest any link between coffee and cancer. So it’s off the carcinogen list at last.

Additionally, for several forms of cancer, like endometrial and liver cancer, the IARC says, there seems to be a beneficial effect of drinking coffee – so it’s actually linked to reduced risk of these forms.

But there’s more: Very hot beverages may carry some cancer risk – enough to put them in category 2A, “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

For drinks above 65°C, including very hot coffee and maté, a type of tea, there were some studies that suggested a link to oesophageal cancer, the IARC says. This form of cancer accounts for about 400,000 deaths per year worldwide.

This link was observed from studies in participants in China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey and South America. But it’s important to keep in mind that the new designation is based on “limited evidence”.

And there was similarly “limited evidence” that piping hot water may be linked to the same kind of cancer in lab animals.

The team suggests that people keep this in perspective, since other activities, like smoking and drinking alcohol, are linked to a greater oesophageal cancer risk in 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,” says IARC director Christopher Wild.

So what should one do? “We say: be prudent, let hot drinks cool down,” WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl told Reuters. He added that the WHO suggested that people “not consume foods or drinks when they are at a very hot–scalding hot–temperature.”

Source: Fortune

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