Drinking green tea may help protect smokers from lung cancer, a study has shown.
Scientists found smokers who drank at least one cup of the antioxidant-rich beverage a day were almost 13 times less likely to develop the disease than those who drank no green tea.
Among smokers and non-smokers combined, drinking green tea led to a more than five-fold reduced risk of lung cancer.
The study was conducted in Taiwan, where people drink a lot of green tea.
Lead researcher I-Hsin Lin, from Chung Shan Medical University on the island, said: “Lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer deaths in Taiwan.
“Tea, particularly green tea, has received a great deal of attention because tea polyphenols are strong antioxidants, and tea preparations have shown inhibitory activity against tumourigenesis.”
Mr Lin’s team compared 170 lung cancer patients and 340 healthy individuals who were asked to provide information on their smoking habits, green tea consumption, diet and family history.
Participants were also tested for growth factors – biological chemicals – that stimulate cell growth, known to be associated with cancer.
Green tea drinkers genetically predisposed to have less harmful growth factor variants were 66% less likely to develop lung cancer than tea drinkers with a more hazardous version.
“Our study may represent a clue that in the case of lung cancer, smoking-induced carcinogenesis could be modulated by green tea consumption and the growth factor environment,” said Mr Lin.
The findings were presented yesterday at the Molecular Origins of Lung Cancer conference in Coronado, California. The meeting was jointly organised by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the Inter-national Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).