Next time you fix yourself a hot tea or coffee, letting it cool off a bit could help you avoid cancer, according to a new study by the U.N. cancer research agency.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, said on Wednesday that there is evidence that drinks consumed at temperatures above 65 Celsius can cause esophageal cancer.
The conclusion comes from analyzing studies from Iran, China and South America where tea and coffee are often served at 70 Celsius or above.
In developed countries, causes of esophageal cancer include smoking and alcohol, but cancer is more common in parts of the world where drinks are often consumed at very high temperatures.
Hot drinks are now classified with lead, gasoline and exhaust fumes as “possibly carcinogenic.”
The findings are good news for coffee drinkers because they suggest the temperature is a greater risk factor than what is being consumed. Coffee had previously been called “possibly carcinogenic” by the WHO in 1991.
The results "suggest that drinking very hot beverages is one probable cause of esophageal cancer and that it is the temperature, rather than the drinks themselves, that appears to be responsible," IARC Director Christopher Wild told the AFP news agency.
The National Coffee Association called the change “great news for coffee drinkers.”
Worldwide, esophageal cancer is the eighth most common cancer, causing about 400,000 deaths in 2012.