The good news: The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has reviewed more data on coffee and has downgraded its risk of causing cancer. In 1991 the IARC classified coffee as "possibly carcinogenic to humans." Since then, there is more positive data on coffee. Coffee is a source of antioxidants and has been associated with lowering the risk of colorectal cancer and improving function in damaged livers.
The bad news: Most people drink their coffee hot. Hot beverages, even hot water, above 149 F (65 C) are "probably carcinogenic to humans," according to the IARC. This classification is based on strengthening evidence of an association between hot beverages and human cancers, as well as new studies in animals. Very hot beverages may damage esophagus cells and this damage might lead to cancer.
It's worth noting that while tea, coffee, cocoa and other hot beverages are prepared and held at high temperatures the actual drinking temperature is typically lower than 149 F in the U.S.
Still this news story got me thinking. What about food? It is the same dilemma? We cook our food to temperatures above this. The safe holding temperature for hot food is 140 F (60 C) or higher, which means we are possibility consuming food at or near this 149 F threshold.
Weighing the pros and the cons of this study, I plan to continue to enjoy warm beverages such as tea and hot cocoa. I will rely on the benefits of the tea leaves and unsweetened cocoa, along with other healthy lifestyle habits to balance things out. How about you?
June 30, 2016
- Loomis D, et al. Carcinogenicity of drinking coffee, mate, and very hot beverages. Lancet Oncology. In press. Accessed June 24, 2016.
- World Health Organization says very hot drinks may cause cancer. American Cancer Society. Accessed June 24, 2016.