The beverage maté: a risk factor for cancer of the head and neck

Head Neck. 2003 Jul;25(7):595-601. doi: 10.1002/hed.10288.


Background: Maté is a tealike beverage consumed habitually in South America and among South Americans throughout the world. It is brewed from the dried leaves and stemlets of the perennial tree Ilex paraguariensis (yerba maté), a species that belongs to the Aquifoliaceae family. Maté consumption has been associated with an increased rate of oral, oropharyngeal, esophageal, and laryngeal cancers. The purpose of this study is to review the literature and discuss the role of Maté consumption as a risk factor for head and neck cancers.

Materials and methods: We performed a thorough review of the relevant literature linking maté consumption with head and neck cancer and the proposed carcinogenicity of maté. Case control studies on maté-drinking populations and in vivo and in vitro studies on the carcinogenicity of maté were reviewed. The populations included in many of these studies also used alcohol and tobacco products, confounding the influence of maté as an independent risk factor.

Results: Evidence in the literature suggests that maté consumption is carcinogenic and plays a role in the development of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus.

Conclusions: The exact mechanism of carcinogenesis of maté is unknown. Both chemical and thermal carcinogenesis mechanisms have been suggested. Available information suggests that maté drinking is a risk factor for upper aerodigestive tract cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beverages / adverse effects*
  • Feeding Behavior / ethnology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Ilex paraguariensis / adverse effects*
  • Ilex paraguariensis / chemistry
  • Plant Leaves / adverse effects
  • Plant Stems / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors