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Report says hot drinks may cause cancer, but it has to be really, really hot

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...


Don't worry too much about getting cancer from hot drinks

Good news if you enjoy a cup — or seven — of coffee each day: It's not cancerous, according to the World Health Organization.

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The International Agency for Research on Cancer reversed its previous position on the nectar of the gods, writing in a new study that there's "no conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic effect" in coffee and that it might actually help prevent some types of cancer.

That's amazing news, but don't celebrate just yet: The IARC said drinking anything super hot — 149 degrees and over — may actually cause it. According to the IARC's report, the hot liquids might encourage the growth of tumors.

"These 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's director Christopher Wild said, according to Reuters.

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But before you switch to iced coffee forever, know this: The "very hot" temperature threshold is really, really hot — hotter than most of us can stand. No one really drinks scalding hot coffee, right?

With all that said, the IARC said more research is needed and other bad habits, like smoking and drinking alcohol to excess, are more likely to cause esophageal cancer. And, like everything, moderation is key.

"Last year the IARC said that bacon is carcinogenic, but it became clear that when eaten in moderation it is not very risky. In the case of very hot drinks, the IARC concludes they are probably hazardous, but can't say how big the risk might be," David Spiegelhalter, a professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Britain's University of Cambridge, told Reuters.

"This may be interesting science, but makes it difficult to construct a sensible response."

So, drink up.

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