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Black Tea Prevents Oral Cancer

Black Tea Prevents Oral Cancer

Healthnotes Newswire (August 4, 2005)—People with a precancerous condition known as oral leukoplakia can reduce their risk of oral cancer by drinking black tea, according to a preliminary study in the Journal of Pathology, Toxicology, and Oncology (2005;24:141–4).

Oral leukoplakia is a condition characterized by white patches or plaques in the mouth that cannot be scraped away. The plaques most commonly occur on the inside of the cheeks, but can also appear on the gums, tongue, palate, and inside of lips. People who use tobacco products such as cigarettes or chewing tobacco have the highest risk of developing oral leukoplakia. About half of all cases of oral cancer occur in people who have oral leukoplakia. Oral cancer is one of the ten most common cancers worldwide, responsible for an estimated 320,000 deaths each year.

Tea (Camilla sinensis) has been used in Aryuvedic medicine (the traditional medicine of India) for centuries. The green leaves are known for their antioxidants, which have been found to have anticancer effects. A preparation made from green tea was beneficial to people with oral leukoplakia in one controlled study. When fermented, the leaves turn black and have different chemical composition and properties. It is used traditionally to treat sore throats, coughs, and mouth sores. Several preliminary studies have suggested that black tea might also have anticancer properties.

In the current study, 15 people with oral leukoplakia were treated with black tea for one year. At the beginning of the study, cells from their mouth plaques were analyzed to measure the existing degree of precancerous damage. They were then given black tea and instructed to use 1 teaspoon in 1 cup of water three times per day. Cells from the pre-cancerous plaques were evaluated again after one year of treatment and results were compared with those of 15 people with oral leukoplakia who had not used black tea. Those who had been treated with black tea experienced notable improvement in their leukoplakia and had a significant reduction in the degree of precancerous cellular damage from the beginning to the end of the study. The degree of cellular damage at the end of the study was also significantly less than that observed in the cells of people who had not been treated.

The results of this preliminary study suggest that drinking black tea can prevent oral cancer in people with oral leukoplakia. Controlled studies are needed to confirm these promising findings.

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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