Can Drinking Cold Water Cause Cancer?

It can be hard to determine what health information online is false and what's not. One questionable claim floating around is that drinking cold water increases a person's cancer risk. Before you resign yourself to a life of drinking tepid, lukewarm water, let's examine whether this has any credibility.

Woman drinking glass of water
Michael Poehlman / Getty Images

Cold Water and Cancer

Some strongly believe that drinking ice water with or after a meal is generally bad for you. They suggest that doing so will solidify the oily foods we consume, creating a "sludge" that contributes to the risk of gastrointestinal cancers. However, there is no scientific evidence to back this up.

In fact, the temperature of drinking water only seems to affect people with certain conditions, such as achalasia. Achalasia is a rare disorder that makes it difficult to swallow food and drink.

A 2012 study did find that people with achalasia had more problems and pain when drinking cold water. In contrast, when they drank warm or hot fluids, symptoms would be eased.

Drinking cold water can also sometimes trigger migraines in some people.

Drinking enough water is important for the body to function properly. Rather than the temperature of the drinking water, what is cause for concern are the environmental factors affecting the water, like pollution and chemicals in the water. These can potentially have carcinogenic or cancer-causing effects.

Separating Fact From Fiction

As much as we know that the accumulation of fats is bad—not only in regards to the development of cancer but cardiovascular and liver diseases, as well—the "cold water" theory definitely has its shortcomings.

Firstly, when you drink cold or warm beverages, they don't remain hot or cold for very long. As soon as consumed, the liquids will quickly stabilize to the same temperature as your body (as does everything else you eat). Moreover, while fat clumping does occur, it does so more in the blood vessels than in the digestive tract.

Secondly, there is a highly acidic environment in the stomach. Stomach acid breaks down almost everything you eat into a thick, liquid consistency before traveling into the small intestine. Finally, the conversion of oils to fats is particularly suspect given that oils are fats. In the end, stomach acids do not convert them to anything but what they already are.


There are a lot of myths about the temperature of drinking water and health in general - but especially cancer. With all the misinformation out there, it can be hard to know what's real and what isn't.

The important thing is that your body gets enough water and stays hydrated, and the good news is that you can drink cold water and not worry about whether it has anything to do with causing cancer - it doesn't.

A Word From Verywell

With so many things out there said to be a contributing factor to cancer, it's natural to be worried about the foods and liquids you drink. It's great that you're trying to become active in staying healthy and reducing your cancer risk.

If you have questions or concerns about nutritional links to cancer, talk with your healthcare provider. They will be able to give you accurate information to help ease your mind.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is cold water bad for you?

    No, it's not. Unless you have a medical condition exacerbated by drinking cold water, cold water is a great way to cool off on a hot day and stay hydrated.

  • Is it better to drink cold or warm water?

    Some people find that drinking warm water helps with digestion - after all, the GI tract is a muscle, and the warm water may help it relax - but the choice is up to you.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ren Y, Ke M, Fang X, et al. Response of esophagus to high and low temperatures in patients with achalasia. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2012;18(4):391-398. doi: 10.5056/jnm.2012.18.4.391

  2. Mattson P. Headache caused by drinking cold water is common and related to active migraine. Cephalalgia. 2001;21(3):230-235. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-2982.2001.00211.x

  3. National Cancer Institute. Risk Factors for Cancer.

  4. U.S. Library of Medicine. Atherosclerosis.

  5. DiPatrizio NV, Piomelli D. Intestinal lipid–derived signals that sense dietary fat. J Clin Invest. 2015;125(3):891-898. doi: 10.1172/JCI76302

  6. U.S. National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus. Stomach acid test.

Additional Reading
  • American Cancer Society. "6 Steps to Help Lower Your Cancer Risk." Atlanta, Georgia; updated March 20, 2017.
Originally written by Lisa Fayed