Green tea has been linked with a series of health benefits
A chemical extracted from green tea could help scientists to develop new drugs to fight cancer.
Tests by UK and Spanish researchers showed polyphenol EGCG taken from green tea leaves inhibits cancer cell growth.
The effect was seen even at low concentrations, equivalent to drinking two or three cups of green tea a day.
However, the study, published in Cancer Research, also found high concentrations of the chemical may increase the risk of birth defects.
We may be able to develop new anti-cancer drugs based on the structure of the EGCG molecule
Professor Roger Thorneley
Previous research has suggested that drinking green tea helps to cut the risk of certain forms of cancer.
The latest study found that EGCG binds to a key enzyme - dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) - that is targeted by established anti-cancer drugs.
This stops the enzyme from triggering the manufacture of new DNA in tumour cells.
It appears to work in the same way as the cancer drug methotrexate - but in practice would probably have fewer side effects.