Cancer Prevention and Tea?
Tea drinking is an ancient tradition dating back 5,000 years in China and India. Long regarded in those cultures as an aid to good health, researchers now are studying tea for possible use in the prevention and treatment of a variety of cancers. Investigators are especially interested in the antioxidants called catechins found in tea. Despite promising early research in the laboratory, however, studies involving humans so far have been inconclusive.
1. What are antioxidants?
2. What is the level of antioxidants found in tea?
Although tea is consumed in a variety of ways and varies in its chemical makeup, one study showed steeping either green or black tea for about five minutes released over 80 percent of its catechins. Instant iced tea, on the other hand, contains negligible amounts of catechins.
3. What are the laboratory findings for tea and cancer prevention?
4. What are the results of human studies?
Two studies in China, where green tea is a mainstay of the diet, resulted in promising findings. One study involving over 18,000 men found tea drinkers were about half as likely to develop stomach or esophageal cancer as men who drank little tea, even after adjusting for smoking and other health and diet factors. A second study at the Beijing Dental Hospital found consuming 3 grams of tea a day, or about 2 cups, along with the application of a tea extract reduced the size and proliferation of leukoplakia, a precancerous oral plaque.
However, a study in the Netherlands did not support these findings. It investigated the link between black tea consumption and the subsequent risk of stomach, colorectal, lung, and breast cancers among 58,279 men and 62,573 women ages 55 to 69. The study took into account such factors as smoking and overall diet. It found no link between tea consumption and protection against cancer.
5. Is the NCI (National Cancer Institute) evaluating tea?
Other ongoing NCI studies are testing green tea as a preventive agent against skin cancer. For example, one is investigating the protective effects of a pill form of green tea against sun-induced skin damage while another explores the topical application of green tea in shrinking precancerous skin changes.
Last Editorial Review: 6/9/2003
Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox FREE!