Does Green Tea Raise Your Risk of Lung Cancer?

For the last several years, we have been discovering the health benefits of drinking green tea. In particular, scientists are telling us that green tea may have significant benefits when it comes to reducing our risk of cancer, and may even help slow the progress of cancer in patients who already have the disease.

The power of green tea comes from its high level of anti-oxidants. Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, and the tea leaves naturally contain catechins. Catechins belong to the flavan-3-ol class of flavonoids.

EGCG is one of the many catechins contained in tea, and is considered to be the most powerful anti-oxidant in tea leaves. Green tea contains more of its original anti-oxidants than black tea because of the processing that black tea undergoes. Fermenting the tea leaves, which is part of processing tea leaves for black tea, converts these catechins to other compounds and reduces their health benefits.

Anti-oxidants are important to our health because they combat free radicals in our body. Free radicals occur naturally as part of the process our body goes through when converting food to energy. Free radicals can damage our cells and our DNA if we don’t combat them.

This is why foods and beverages with anti-oxidants, like fruits, vegetables and green tea, are so important to our health. Anti-oxidants are linked with preventing cancer, and a decreased risk of stroke, heart disease and lower blood cholesterol.

Of course, all of this is very good news. However, one study seems to point us in the other direction, making it appear that green tea may actually increase the risk of developing lung cancer.

In a study conducted in Hong Kong, 200 women with lung cancer and 200 women without the disease were interviewed about their eating and drinking habits, smoking history and exposure to pollution in the environment. The study showed that the participants who were long term green tea drinkers did have a significantly higher risk of developing lung cancer.

In conjunction with the study on the patients, researchers also tested some brands of green tea that are very popular in China. They found that, when the tea had a tendency to mutate during metabolism when fed to rats. So, this may further indicate that green tea, when combined with other typical pollutants that we’re exposed to, may become chemically altered in the body. This chemical change may actually cause long term, low dosage exposure to green tea to hasten the development in some individuals.

So, as laymen, what should we conclude from this study? Well, even scientists believe that the only conclusion we should draw from this study is that more research is required.

So many studies have shown that green tea’s anti-oxidants likely have the power to help us live longer and healthier lives. This study does not specifically spell out the other lifestyle habits of the lung cancer patients who drank green tea. For example, we don’t know if a large percentage of these patients also smoked.

In addition, the study showed that the green tea drinkers consumed the beverage in fairly small amounts, but over a period of many years. So, we also must evaluate the level of exposure to tea and other factors.

From evaluating just one study, there is little information to tell us if the risk of lung cancer is increased when a patient drinks green tea in combination with some other lifestyle or environmental factor, or if there is a possible risk just from drinking green tea. This is the reason that even the scientists who conducted the study concluded that we simply need to examine the issue further.

Many studies have been conducted comparing the incidence of cancer in Asian cultures with that of European and American culture. These studies have shown that Asian cultures have a significantly lower risk of heart disease and cancer than Europe and the United States. So, it’s safe to assume that something in the Asian lifestyle is healthier. But, is it the tea?

Certainly, Asians drink more tea than westerners (although the British come in a very close second). However, Asians also are less likely to be overweight, and we know that obesity is linked to higher incidence of cancer and heart disease.

The Asian diet is healthier than ours, and they eat far more fish than we do. We know that a high consumption of fish is healthy, combating aging and disease.

But, Asians, especially Asian men, are more far likely to smoke than Western Europeans or Americans. Yet, they have a lower risk of lung cancer and heart disease.

So, as you can see, it’s a complicated issue. It will certainly take far more research to determine just what the magic combination might be. More comparison between Asian lifestyle and our own and more studies about the specific benefits and risks of certain foods and beverages may help us better determine how we can best use products like tea to preserve health.

Jon M. Stout is the Chairman of the Golden Moon Tea Company. Golden Moon Tea carefully selects the finest rare and orthodox teas, which are processed slowly and handcrafted with extreme care. At their website, you can learn more about their current tea offerings, including their exceptional green tea, white tea, black tea, oolong tea (also known as wu-long and wu long tea) and chai.

Visit for all details concerning the Golden Moon Tea Company’s fine line of teas.

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