Can hot drinks damage your esophagus?

Can hot drinks damage your esophagus?

Piping hot coffee or tea can be an essential part of your day, pulling you out of a morning funk and giving you the jolt you need to start the day.

But is all that heat doing damage?

A study published in the International Journal of Cancer showed an association between drinking super-hot drinks and a higher risk for esophageal cancer. The study examined more than 50,000 people from northeastern Iran, and the results suggest that the heavy consumption of very hot tea in the studied region makes the people there more vulnerable to cancer.

It suggests that because there aren’t health benefits to drinking tea while extremely hot, people would be advised to let it cool down a bit.

Dr. Gary Chmielewski, a chief of thoracic surgery at Advocate Health Care, says hot drinks can be a concern, but Americans have other things to worry about when it comes to esophageal cancer.

“While consumption of extremely hot beverages may cause damage to the esophageal lining and increase cancer risk, I would think this is very culturally specific and would be limited to Asia, the Middle East and South America,” Dr. Chmielewski says. “Americans are much more prone to esophageal cancer risk from chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease, obesity, alcohol abuse and smoking.”

Dr. Chmielewski says that medicine can help with reflux and heartburn symptoms. But ongoing reflux can still damage the esophagus and cause cancer, especially in obese, middle-aged white men. Minimally invasive procedures are available for people who qualify, and you should contact a doctor if you’re having issues.

“Maintaining a healthy weight and good nutrition can help fight heartburn symptoms,” Dr. Chmielewski says.

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn your healthy weight range. 

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  1. I have discovered that if I quit eating breads, my reflux goes away. The moment I decide to eat bread again, the reflux comes back. Studies need to be done.

  2. Agreed with that bread thing, same with my husband.

  3. I feel that more of the stats and data need to be presented. English are known for drinking tea and coffee, what is the ratio for them having cancer related concerns? as for Iran and the middle eastern countries (which I have visited) they drink a very strong Turkish type of coffee and its mostly from a freeze dried source rather than fresh beans. so I would like to see more research on this before I give up my morning cup of java or a warm cup of tea when its winter in Wisconsin!

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About the Author

Mike Riopell
Mike Riopell

Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.