Warning of cancer risk from drinking scalding tea or coffee
Public told to cool down hot beverages to make them safe
Extremely hot drinks can cause cancer and they should always be left for a few minutes to reduce their temperature, or cooled down with milk, the World Health Organisation has warned.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the WHO, said hot drinks of 65C and over were likely to cause cancer of the oesophagus. However, the panel found there was no evidence that coffee or tea causes cancer.
Dr Christopher Wild, director of IARC, said: "These results suggest that drinking very hot beverages is one probable cause of oesophageal cancer, and that it is the temperature, rather than the drinks themselves, that appears to be responsible."
Experts said that most people should not be overly alarmed by the findings.
Recent research published in the journal 'Burns' found that a cup of tea with 10ml of milk cooled to less than 65C in under five minutes.
The UK's Royal Society of Chemistry also recommends drinking tea at 60C-65C, while Northumbria University found that the perfect drinking temperature for tea - 60C - is achieved six minutes after brewing begins.
Most coffee experts recommend the drink be served between 40C and 60C.
Casey Dunlop, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "Most people in the UK don't consume drinks at the temperatures considered in this research. So as long as you let your drink cool down a bit before you drink it, you're unlikely to be much at risk."
In 1991, the IARC linked coffee to bladder cancer, but following the lengthy review, it has now concluded that the evidence has become weaker. In its new evaluation of more than 500 studies, it also found that coffee drinking had no carcinogenic effects for cancers of the pancreas, female breast, and prostate.
For more than 20 other cancers, the evidence was inadequate to enable a conclusion to be made.
Although the IARC said it could not prove that coffee was "safe", it said that current data suggested it was unlikely to cause the majority of cancers.
It may even be protective against womb and liver cancers, the panel concluded.
Kristine Breminer Isgren, chair of the British Coffee Association, added: "Coffee is one of the most heavily researched products in the world. It is great news for the millions of coffee lovers that the World Health Organisation has provided that reassurance.
"This reclassification follows strong evidence that coffee has a protective effect against some cancers. Research has also shown coffee may help reduce the risks of heart disease, strokes (in women), Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease."
Dr Tim Bond, of the British Tea Advisory Panel, said: "This latest announcement has no relevance to the cuppa enjoyed by millions of people daily. Tea has been confirmed by many organisations, such as Public Health England, as a healthy drink, which supports normal hydration.
"Emerging evidence suggests that tea contributes to heart health and may help to reduce the risk of cancer, although this needs to be backed up with further human studies.
"Tea drinkers can continue to enjoy tea in the traditional way with a drop of milk, which ensures that the temperature of tea sits within safe limits." (© Daily Telegraph, London)