Two cuppas a day can slash skin cancer risk

Two cups of tea may slash the risk of skin cancer, according to new research. Scientists found tea-drinkers were at least 65 per cent less likely to get certain types of tumour. The biggest benefits were seen among long-term drinkers, especially those who downed several cups a day for more than 40 years.

The findings, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, show tea's disease-fighting properties appear to protect the body against squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas.They are usually caused by exposure to the sun's rays and grow slowly over a period of months or even years.

Basal cell carcinomas normally show up as a painless lump that gradually expands in size. Although they do not normally spread they need to be surgically removed.

Previous studies have found it can protect against heart disease, ovarian cancer and stress. In the latest study, carried out at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire, US, scientists analysed over 1,400 patients aged between 25 and 74 with one of the two types of tumour. They compared their diet, drinking habits and lifestyle with a similar group who did not have cancer.

The results showed regular tea drinkers were 65 per cent less likely to have squamous cell carcinoma and almost 80 per less at risk.Dr Judy Rees, who led the research, said: "The constituents of tea have been investigated for their activity against a variety of diseases and cancers. But the most potent appear to be polyphenols."

These are antioxidants that block the damaging effects in the body of molecules known as free radicals. Dr Alison Ross, from Cancer Research UK said the results were interesting but "did not provide firm evidence" that tea protects against skin cancer. She said limiting exposure to the sun's rays was still the best way to reduce the risk.

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