Can Hot Foods and Drinks Cause Esophageal Cancer?
If your food is so hot that it burns your mouth, you might need to let things cool down a bit! According to a 2009 study, one esophageal cancer cause may be the consumption of extremely hot foods and drinks. The heat from the foods and drinks may actually damage the fragile cells that line your esophagus badly enough to cause mutation.
Esophageal cancer usually begins in the cells that line the esophagus, and ultimately spreads to affect the entire esophagus. In the United States, most cases of esophageal cancer are found in men and occur in the lower portion of the esophagus.
This type of cancer is difficult to treat and the result is many fatalities every year. If you are at risk for developing esophageal cancer, then it may be best to avoid overly hot foods and drinks.
What is Esophageal Cancer?
The esophagus is a long, hollow tube that connects the back of your throat to your stomach. It transfers food from your throat to your stomach so that your food can be digested. This structure lies directly behind your trachea or windpipe and in front of your spine.
Everything that you eat and drink enters your esophagus in order to be processed by the digestive system and absorbed by your body. For this reason, your esophagus is one of the hardest working organs of your body.
Esophageal cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the innermost layer of your esophagus, or the mucosa. Once the cancer cells form, they begin to grow outward through the outer two layers of your esophagus.
Two main cell types are found in your esophagus, thus two main forms of cancer can occur. Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are both cancerous cells and masses commonly diagnosed in the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the squamous cells of your esophagus, while adenocarcinomas begin in the gland cells of your esophagus. Both types are equally as common in the United States and both produce the following symptoms:
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty swallowing
If esophageal cancer is suspected, then your doctor may order imaging tests in order to determine whether or not cancer cells are present. If so, then your cancer cells would be staged and treatment would be determined based on how advanced your case is as well as your preferences.
How do Hots Foods and Drinks Contribute to Esophageal Cancer?
There is new research coming out in the medical community about how hot foods and drinks and their link to esophageal cancer. According to research studies published in 2009 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the International Journal of Cancer, high temperature foods and beverages may increase a person’s risk of developing esophageal cancer in their future.
The study published in the British Medical Journal stated that drinking extremely hot tea could increase your risk of developing esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. The study followed tea drinkers from Iran, 300 patients who had esophageal cancer and 571 patients who were healthy.
After interviewing and examining both groups of patients, the study concluded that esophageal cancer was eight times more common in people who drank very hot tea each day in comparison to people who drank hot or lukewarm tea each day.
Even though temperature is a relative feeling, each person understands what the phrases “too hot” and “very hot” mean. Beverages that are too hot or very hot should be avoided, because they injure your esophageal squamous cells – much like a sunburn on the surface of your skin.
Over time, these cells can become so damaged from the habit of consuming foods that are too hot that they become cancerous – just as skin cancer can form from too many sunburns.
The study published in the International Journal of Cancer also found an association with drinking very hot beverages and esophageal cancers. This study was a systematic review that looked at 59 different research studies and found a strong correlation with drinking teas and coffees that were considered “too hot” and “very hot” with esophageal cancer.
More recently, a review published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that drinking very hot beverages was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Interestingly, prior studies had linked drinking coffee to esophageal cancer, when in reality, it is more likely that coffee itself is not the problem, unless it is very hot.
How to Prevent Esophageal Cancer
Consuming foods that are heated to a high temperature increases your risk of damaging the fragile cells that line your esophagus and could lead to the formation of cancer.
To prevent damage to your mouth, throat, and stomach, consider lukewarm or hot items that do not cause a burning sensation in the mouth. If your food or drinks appear far too hot, be patient and let them cool…
It’s a small change that could make a big difference in your health!
For those who have habitually consumed hot food and beverages, you might want to take preventive measures. One suggestion would be to consume (organic) strawberries, or even better, include freeze-dried strawberries in your daily diet. Research done in 2011 at the Ohio State University in Columbus shows that strawberries may slow the progression of the disease. The researchers found that daily consumption of dried strawberries over the course of six months significantly lowered the histological grade of precancerous lesions.
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