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Wellness & Prevention Print

Coffee Won’t Give You Cancer Unless It is Very Hot Says WHO

Coffee gets a bad rap on many levels, but new findings reveal coffee doesn’t cause cancer, except when it’s very hot -- 150 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Coffee re-evaluated for cancer-causing potential.
  • Results reveal coffee doesn’t cause cancer. It may actually prevent certain cancers.
  • Very hot beverages are an exception and could cause esophageal cancer. Your esophagus is the long tube that carries the food you swallow from your throat to your stomach.

The Details

Coffee lovers – here’s some good news that’ll have you reaching for that next cup of Joe without hesitation. A recent look at the carcinogenic effects of coffee found that it’s not likely to cause cancer, after all, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO). In fact, drinking coffee may reduce your risk for liver cancer. It may also provide protection against  endometrial cancers that form on the inner lining of the uterus. But there is a caveat: drinking very hot coffee might actually cause esophageal cancer.

The Background

The IARC last assessed coffee’s cancer-causing effects in 1991, classifying it as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on limited evidence that linked it to bladder cancer. But since then, larger bodies of evidence have emerged, which prompted the IARC to reevaluate its stance. After reviewing more than 1,000 human and animal studies, they found there is insufficient evidence that drinking coffee causes cancer.

The same was determined for maté, a caffeinated herbal tea that is most popular in South America. Maté was also labeled possibly carcinogenic back in 1991 based on evidence linking maté consumption to esophageal cancers in South America. But the IARC’s recent review of those studies found the link was only true when maté was consumed “hot” or “very hot.” This led the IARC to take a closer look at studies that associated esophageal cancer with drinking other hot beverages. They found that the hotter the beverage, the greater the risk for developing esophageal cancer.

Coffee and maté aren’t the cancer-causing culprits: temperature is.

This is likely due to the damage that extremely hot liquids can cause to the cells in your throat and digestive tract. So as long as your coffee is not very hot (no more than 150 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the IARC), you’re in the clear, but anything hotter could be dangerous.

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