Drinking hot tea with citrus peel could protect the body against skin cancer, US scientists say. The researchers studied 450 people, half of whom had suffered a particular type of skin cancer, and questioned them about their tea-drinking habits. They found that those who developed skin cancer drank significantly less hot tea. Citrus peel in the tea was found to have more than a 70 per cent reduced risk for skin squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), whereas black tea alone meant a 40 per cent reduction. "These studies have also shown a protective effect of tea against sunburn which may lead to skin cancer," said Dr Jane McGregor, of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Researchers Iman Hakim and Robin Harris, of the University of Arizona, hope the study will help them develop food supplements to help prevent skin cancer. Cancer charities have welcomed the research but want further studies. They said that until there is more evidence people should continue following the safe sun message. Brad Timms, science information officer for the Cancer Research Campaign, said he would like to see more research on the study. "The most effective and proven way to avoid skin cancer is to avoid over-exposure to the sun and use a sunscreen with a high SPF," he added. Imperial Cancer Research Fund dermatologist Dr Jane McGregor said the new study confirmed much of what had already been thought. "There is good evidence in mice that tea (both green and black tea) provides significant protection against both the acute (sunburn) and long-term (skin cancer) effects of ultraviolet light. "The only human studies to date have applied topical constituents of green tea onto the skin and then exposed it to harmful UV rays. These studies have also shown a protective effect of tea against sunburn which may lead to skin cancer. "It follows, at least in theory, that ingestion of tea may have protective effects against skin cancer. This field of work merits serious consideration and further research," she said. The study was carried out in Arizona, which has some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the US. But scientists found that iced drinks were less effective than the hot beverages as they were more likely to be diluted. According to the report, "Subjects who reported consumption of both hot black tea and citrus peel had a significant marked decrease risk of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). "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."