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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Tea 'could cut skin cancer risk'
Cup of tea
People in the study drank both green and black tea
Drinking just two cups of tea per day could cut the risk of developing skin cancer, a study suggests.

The US research compared the tea-drinking habits of 1,400 people with skin cancer and 700 who had not developed the disease.

The study, in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, suggests chemicals in tea could have a protective effect.

But British cancer experts warned that the best way to guard against the disease was to protect the skin.

Although these results sound interesting they do not provide firm evidence that drinking tea offers protection
Dr Alison Ross, Cancer Research UK

The study, by a team at Dartmouth Medical School, New Hampshire, looked at 770 adults with basal cell carcinoma and 696 with squamous cell carcinoma.

Both are cancers which develop in skin cells. Sunlight is a contributing factor in around 90% of cases.

Around 70,000 people in Britain are affected by the cancers each year.

All those studied were diagnosed between 1993 and 1995 or 1997 and 2000.

Lemon peel

The study asked the people with cancer, plus the healthy group - all aged between 25 and 74 - about diet, lifestyle and their consumption of both green and black teas.

Both kinds of tea are rich in antioxidants which animal studies have been shown prevent the development of cancer cells.

This research found that people who drank tea regularly had a lower risk of either cancer.

Those who drank two or more cups a day had a 65% lower risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.

Tea-drinking also appeared to protect against basal cell carcinoma, but to a lesser degree.

Adding lemon peel to the tea, a practice more common in the US than the UK, seemed to increase the benefits of the drink, the researchers said.

Writing in the journal, the team led by Dr Judy Rees, said: "The constituents of tea have been investigated for their activity against a variety of diseases and cancers.

"But the most potent appear to be polyphenols [antioxidants]."

The team said further research into the protective effects of tea could lead to a better understanding of how cancer develops.

But Dr Alison Ross, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "Although these results sound interesting they do not provide firm evidence that drinking tea offers protection against non-melanoma skin cancer.

"Our advice is to spend some time in the shade between 11am and 3pm, to make sure you never burn, to cover up with a hat, t-shirt and sunglasses, to take extra care with children and to use a factor 15+ sunscreen."


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