Maté: a risk factor for oral and oropharyngeal cancer

Oral Oncol. 2002 Oct;38(7):646-9. doi: 10.1016/s1368-8375(01)00127-0.


Maté is a tea-like beverage consumed mainly in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern Brazil and to a lesser degree in other areas of the world such as Germany, Syria, Lebanon and Northern Israel. It is brewed from the dried leaves and stemlets of the perennial tree Ilex paraguarensis ("yerba mate") a species that belongs to the Aquifoliaceae family. Maté consumption has been associated with an increased rate of oral and oropharyngeal cancers. The purpose of this study is to review the literature and discuss the role of Maté consumption in the development of oral and oropharyngeal cancer and the potential carcinogenic mechanisms. A review of the relevant literature linking Maté consumption with oral and oropharyngeal cancer and the carcinogenicity of Maté was performed. The search was performed using Medline, library catalogues, OCLC first search and ISI web of science databases. Case control studies on Maté drinking populations and, in vivo and in vitro studies on the carcinogenicity of Maté were reviewed. The populations reviewed in many of these studies also used alcohol and tobacco products confounding the influence of Maté as an independent risk factor. There is evidence in the literature that Maté consumption is in itself carcinogenic and plays a role in the development of cancers of the oral cavity and oropharynx. Although the exact mechanism of carcinogenesis is still unknown, available information suggests that Maté drinking should be considered one of the risk factors for oral and oropharyngeal cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Carcinogens / adverse effects
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mouth Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Tea / adverse effects*


  • Carcinogens
  • Tea