Can Drinking Cold Water Cause Cancer?

There have long been suggestions, disseminated through social media and alternative health websites, that drinking cold water can significantly increase a person's risk of getting cancer

Woman drinking glass of water
Michael Poehlman / Getty Images

Your first reaction might be to laugh aloud and shrug this off as a piece of quack science. But is this really the best way to dispel an unfounded belief? Or are there any seeds of truth here that we might somehow be cold emissing?

The "Link" Between Cold Water and Cancer

There are some who 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. The consolidated mass will then react with stomach acids, converting it into fats that are more readily absorbed into the intestines than solid foods.

It is thereafter believed that, as nutrients are rapidly absorbed from the resulting sludge, the remaining fats are left to accumulate on the intestinal walls, leading to the development of things like stomach or colorectal cancer.

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 clumping of fat does occur, it does so more in the blood vessels than 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 it travels 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.

The Consequences of Cancer Myths and Misconceptions

Beliefs like these might seem amusing at first or leave you feeling irritated. While it's easy to dismiss them as malarky and quackery, the real concerns are those individuals who might be swayed by such pseudo-science and decide to ignore the sound medical advice given them.

After all, isn't it easier to stop drinking cold water than to stop smoking? Or to have your third whiskey without ice instead of with?

Ultimately, these beliefs are not so much embraced by people as hard facts but rather the means by which to turn one's back on conventional science, where solutions are rarely as simple. 

A Word From Verywell

The bottom line is here that there no need to dispense with the ice cubes or resort to drinking room-temperature milk.

What we also can't dispense with are the changes to lifestyle that can profoundly reduce your risk of developing cancer. The fact that we may not always like them doesn't change the importance of incorporating as many of them into our lives as possible. These include:

  • Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke
  • Avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Practicing sun safety
  • Eating a well-balanced diet

Other ways to avoid cancer is exercising regularly. seeing your healthcare provier, and getting routine preventive cancer screenings.

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

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

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

  4. National Cancer Institute. Risk Factors for Cancer.

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