Researchers for the National Natural Science Foundation of China and National Key Research and Development Program surveyed 456,155 people aged 30 to 79, with a follow-up period of 9.2 years and judging outcome by esophageal cancer incidence through 2015.
In the study, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, drinking "hot" or "burning hot" tea was associated with a two- to fivefold increase in esophageal cancer, but only in people who also smoked or drank alcohol. The ten-year Chinese study factored in tea drinking.
According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, esophageal cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide. Another potential way that hot tea may contribute to cancer risk, the authors write, is through the formation of inflammatory compounds, which occurs after repeated irritation to the esophagus.
How you take your tea is an oft-divisive, deal-breaking topic.
'Of importance, however, is that the accumulated literature suggests little risk from hot drinks at temperatures below 65C (149F).
At the start of the study, none of the participants had cancer.
In the end, the researchers indicated 1,731 cases of esophageal cancer. However, a new study suggests that drinking hot tea may have serious negative consequences for some of us.
Smoking tobacco and consuming alcohol also increase cancer risk.
'Most people drink their tea and coffee at a temperature that seems unlikely to cause cancer'.
They said: "Abstaining from hot tea might be beneficial for preventing oesophageal cancer in persons who drink alcohol excessively or smoke".
ELSIE HUL FLICKR
The existing evidence is not enough to prove the claim that there is a link between drinking hot tea and oesophagal cancer risk. China is among the countries with the highest rates of esophageal cancer.
This study has some limitations.
The researchers collected information about tobacco and alcohol consumption at the beginning of the study.
Similarly, the temperature of the tea wasn't checked - researchers relied on people saying whether they usually drank tea warm, hot or burning hot.
An estimated 15% of patients who develop the cancer are still alive after five years.
In comparison, boozers and smokers risk was just 2.5 times higher if they stuck to cooler drinks.
It's not clear whether these results apply to the UK.
As several experts have commented, most oesophageal cancers in the United Kingdom are adenocarcinoma rather than squamous cell.
Based on the findings, the researchers offered some advice for people who smoke or drink large amounts of alcohol.
Another limitation is that study participants reported on their own smoking and drinking habits, and their reports could be unreliable.