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Investigating Tea Temperature and Content as Risk Factors for Esophageal Cancer in an Endemic Region of Western Kenya: Validation of a Questionnaire and Analysis of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Content

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Investigating Tea Temperature and Content as Risk Factors for Esophageal Cancer in an Endemic Region of Western Kenya: Validation of a Questionnaire and Analysis of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Content

Michael M Mwachiro et al. Cancer Epidemiol.

Abstract

Background: Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is common in certain areas worldwide. One area, western Kenya, has a high risk of ESCC, including many young cases (<30 years old), but has limited prior study of potential risk factors. Thermal injury from hot food and beverages and exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been proposed as important risk factors for ESCC in other settings. The beverage of choice in western Kenya is milky tea (chai).

Methods: Healthy individuals >18 years of age who were accompanying relatives to an endoscopy unit were recruited to participate. The preferred initial temperature of chai consumption in these adults was measured by questionnaire and digital thermometer. Comparisons of these results were assessed by kappa statistics. Concentrations of 26 selected PAHs were determined by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry in samples of 11 brands of commercial tea leaves commonly consumed in Kenya.

Results: Kappa values demonstrated moderate agreement between questionnaire responses and measured temperatures. The mean preferred chai temperatures were 72.1 °C overall, 72.6 °C in men (n = 78), and 70.2 °C in women (n = 22; p < 0.05). Chai temperature did not significantly differ by age or ethnic group. The PAH levels in the commercial Kenyan tea leaves were uniformly low (total PAH < 300 ng/g of leaves).

Conclusions: Study participants drink chai at higher temperatures than previously reported in other high-risk ESCC regions. Chai is not, however, a source of significant PAH exposure. Very hot chai consumption should be further evaluated as a risk factor for ESCC in Kenya with the proposed questionnaire.

Keywords: Esophageal neoplasms; Hot temperature; Kenya; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Tea.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests

Conflict of Interest: None

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