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Coffee No Longer Considered Cancerous, UN Decides

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Good news for coffee lovers everywhere – the World Health Organization’s research branch has removed coffee from classified carcinogens, stating that there has not been enough proof to link it to cancer.

However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) did warn in a statement issued Wednesday that consuming “very hot” beverages of any kind could likely increase the chances for getting cancer, reports Fox News.

The agency pointed to countries like China, Iran and some in South America where certain kinds of tea are traditionally drunk at very high temperatures, over 70 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit), which is considerably hotter than other drinks served in coffee shops across Europe and North America.

The IARC had experts who concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to suggest drinking coffee might cause cancer, states a letter published in the Lancet Oncology. “I’m not really sure why coffee was in a higher category in the first place,” Owen Yang, an epidemiologist at Oxford University says. He has studied possible links between coffee and carcinogens, but was not involved in the IARC group. He adds,

The best evidence available suggests that coffee does not raise the cancer risk.

Dana Loomis, deputy head of the IARC program that puts classifications on carcinogens, says the agency began investigating the link between very hot beverages and cancer after unusually high rates of esophageal cancer showed in countries where drinking beverages at such temperatures is a common practice.

Loomis says that even at temperatures below 60 degrees Celsius (140 Fahrenheit), beverages can still scald the mouth and esophagus, so beverages drunk at such high temperatures is harmful, causing “thermal injuries” that could eventually encourage tumor growth in the throat. Evidence for this is limited, though. Loomis adds that there is little evidence if eating very hot food might be harmful, as well.

Other scientists are of the opinion that focus should be on other more likely causes of cancer, as there are more important factors to prevent cancer rather than just hot or cold beverages. “Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption are much more significant for reducing cancer risk than the temperature of what you’re drinking,” Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society says.

He did welcome the news regarding coffee. “As a heavy coffee drinker, I have always enjoyed my coffee guilt-free. But now there is scientific evidence to justify that.”

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