FACT SHEET: Cancer of the Oesophagus and Drinking Very Hot Beverages
- Cancer of the oesophagus is the eighth most common cause of cancer worldwide, leading to approximately 400 000 deaths per year.
- Tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking are important causes of oesophageal cancer.
- The highest rates of oesophageal cancer occur in parts of South America, East Africa, and Central and East Asia (shown in dark blue on the map).
- Very hot* beverages are traditionally consumed in some of these areas; these are mainly maté** in South America and tea in Asia and Africa.
- A link has long been suspected between the high rates of oesophageal cancer in these areas and drinking very hot beverages.
- Most of the studies that IARC reviewed on the possible link between oesophageal cancer and drinking very hot beverages were conducted in these areas.
- The studies suggest that drinking very hot beverages probably causes cancer of the oesophagus.
- This observation is supported by the results of experiments with rats and mice.
- Drinking very hot beverages was classified as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on studies in humans and animals.
- This classification means that a link between drinking very hot beverages and oesophageal cancer is likely, but the proportion of oesophageal cancer cases due to drinking very hot beverages is not yet known.
Global distribution of the estimated incidence rates of oesophageal cancer per 100 000 people in 2012. Countries with higher rates are shown in darker blue. Countries with the highest rates include Afghanistan, Brazil, China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia.
* “Very hot” refers to any beverages consumed at a temperature above 65 °C.
** Maté is an infusion made from dried leaves of Ilex paraguariensis, a shrub native to South America. It is usually drunk very hot (at 70 °C or above), but it may also be consumed warm or cold.