Feb. 6 (UPI) — The consumption of hot tea and excessive alcohol or tobacco use have been linked to increased risk for esophageal cancer, according to new research in China.

People who drank burning-hot tea and consumed at least a half-ounce of alcohol daily had five times greater risk for cancer than abstainers, as did current smokers, according to new findings published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Cancer risk was not, however, increased in the absence of excessive alcohol consumption and smoking researchers report.

“These findings suggest that abstaining from hot tea may be beneficial for persons who drink alcohol excessively or smoke,” researchers said in a press release from the American College of Physicians.

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. The researchers excluded people who were previously diagnosed with cancer or who reduced tea drinking, alcohol intake or cigarette smoking.

A total of 1,731 esophageal cancer cases were documented in the study.

China’s esophageal cancer rate is among the highest worldwide. And in the Asian nation, tea drinkers — especially men — usually smoke and drink alcohol.

China contributed almost half of the global new esophageal cancer cases in 2012 and was the sixth most common cancer form there in 2011, according to a report by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The survival rate is about 20 percent in China.

“Tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as the chemical compounds and adverse thermal effect of hot tea, considerably complicate the association between tea drinking and cancer risk,” researchers said.

Other research has linked hot beverages, including tea, coffee and even water, to increased esophageal cancer.

In 2016, International Agency for Research on Cancer researchers said hot beverages are “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and they surmised at the time that men who drink hot beverages were more likely to be smokers or exposed to chemical carcinogens than those who do not drink it.

Other studies have also shown that green tea contains high levels of antioxidants, which may limit damage to cells and tissues that can lead to cancer.

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