Drinking hot lemon tea could help protect the body against skin cancer, according to a US study published in the BMC Dermatology journal.

The research was carried out by scientists from the University of Arizona, situated in an area with the one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the US. Of the 450 people studied, half had suffered with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a particular type of skin cancer.

Researchers Iman Hakim and Robin Harris quizzed participants about their tea drinking habits and discovered that those who had developed skin cancer drank significantly less hot tea. The study concluded that drinking black tea meant a 40% reduction in the risk of developing SCC. Importantly, the consumption of hot tea with lemon citrus peel was found to bring a more than 70% reduced risk of SCC.

Consuming iced tea drinks was less effective in the prevention of skin cancer however, because they were more likely to be diluted.

Hakim and Harris' report concluded: "This older Arizona population offered a unique opportunity to study potential associations between consumption of tea and/or citrus peel and risk of skin SCC [...] our data showed that persons without skin cancer significantly consumed more citrus peel and hot tea than did cases of skin SCC."

Scientists hope the study will aid in the development of food supplements that can help prevent skin cancer. Currently, there are around 1.2m new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in the US every year, and that total is expected to rise with the depletion of the ozone layer.

The majority of skin cancer cases result from high exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun

To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

The 2000-2005 World Outlook for Tea

The Best Consumers of Tea 2000