April 19/The Express -- Drinking just two cups of tea a day could slash the risk of skin cancer, new research revealed yesterday.

Scientists found that those who enjoyed a regular cuppa were at least 65% less likely to get certain types of skin tumours.

Long-term tea drinkers -- especially people who downed several cups a day for many years -- were most likely to reap the benefits, the study found.

Drinking either normal black tea or green tea -- both of which are rich in antioxidants known to help fight the development of cancer cells -- can make a difference, it said. And adding a slice of lemon could increase the benefits even further.

The findings, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, suggest that tea can protect against two forms of skin cancer - squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas - which can affect up to 70,000 Brits a year. They are usually caused by too much exposure to the sun.

Scientists at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire examined 1,400 patients with one of the two tumours. They compared their diet, drinking habits and lifestyle with people who did not have cancer.

The results showed that regular tea drinkers were 65 per cent less likely to have squamous cell carcinoma and almost 80% less at risk of a basal cell carcinoma.

Dr Judy Rees, who led the research, said, "The constituents of tea have been investigated for their activity against a variety of diseases and cancers. But the most potent appear to be polyphenols." These are an antioxidant known to protect against diseases.

Similar studies have shown that a regular tea habit can help prevent heart disease, other forms of cancer and even stress.

From the April 23, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash