Tea and cancer prevention: an evaluation of the epidemiologic literature

Nutr Cancer. 1997;27(1):1-13. doi: 10.1080/01635589709514494.


Animal and in vitro studies provide evidence of an anticarcinogenic potential of active ingredients in teas. This review encompasses epidemiologic studies of stomach, colon, and lung cancer as well as the evidence of a relationship between tea drinking and cancer at large in humans. Cohort studies do not suggest a protective role for tea drinking in the total risk of cancer. Site-specific studies reveal a more complex picture. The epidemiologic studies on tea drinking and stomach cancer do not justify claims of a cancer-protective effect. A protective effect of green tea on the development of colon cancer is suggested. The evidence regarding black tea is less clear, with some indication of a risk of colon or rectal cancer associated with regular use of black tea. The studies on tea and lung cancer also suggest an increased risk with increased tea consumption. The range and crude categorization of tea consumption, choice of control groups, and inadequate control for confounding might have obscured possible relationships. From the limited studies that suggest a favorable effect from tea, it is likely that benefits are restricted to high intakes in high-risk populations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / standards*
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • China / epidemiology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Eating
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Stomach Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Taiwan / epidemiology
  • Tea / standards*
  • Turkey / epidemiology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Tea