The coffee cancer connection

Cup of Coffee with Spices

Image via Wikipedia

How many of you are daily coffee drinker like me?  Probably many of you (although if you live in Asia like I do, it seems like much less than what we American’s drink) drink at least one cup a day.  You may have noticed a report recently that indicates that coffee may be good for you- at least in reducing your risk of getting certain types of cancer.

The most recent study indicated that men who were middle-aged and thus more likely to get prostate cancer and who regularly drank coffee thank those who did not drink coffee.  However, there are a few issues here.  A 20% reduction in prostate cancer risk was seen with those who had six cups or more a day (and as a coffee drinker, that is a lot of coffee) for the last twenty years.  That is a lot of coffee and for those who drink it with milk and sugar, that is a lot of milk and sugar.  However, what was really more informative was that heavy coffee drinkers had a 60% reduction in risk of getting the more serious and lethal form of prostate cancer (the one that metastasizes and moves to another location such as bone and is thus much harder to treat).  However, it is important to note that this study represents an ‘association’ study and not a ’cause and effect study’.  In other words, looking at close to 50,000 middle-aged men in general there was an association in the statistics between drinking coffee and developing prostate cancer over time.  This means that there is no absolute proof that coffee prevents prostate cancer, but that the link is statistically likely.  More controlled studies would have to be done and more laboratory-based studies would have to be done to get more formal proof. 

As prostate cancer is one of the largest killers of men, it would be great if medical doctors would now start recommending that all men start drinking 6 cups or more coffee a day (the caffeine content did not matter in this study) earlier in life so as to reduce the prostate cancer risk.  However, due to the fact that this study only associates the two (coffee consumption and decreased prostate cancer) they can not do so.  There could be other things that were similar in general between coffee drinkers (lots of coffee per day) and non coffee drinkers has in common that were not tested for.  So, one must be careful when making very strong arguments about this kind of studies.

What about a big cancer in women, breast cancer does coffee reduce this cancer risk?  Well, it turns out that there are studies that suggest that it does and some that suggest that is does not.  Overall, two large studies (one in Sweden and the other in Germany) suggest that there is no strong association between a large amount of coffee consumption per day and the overall risk of all breast cancer types in general.  However, when they researchers divided the breast cancer into several different types (due to hormone receptor expression) the Swedish group did find a strong association (reducing the risk substantially).  This was not found when the researches did the same this in German women.  Thus, for now….there is no strong evidence that drinking lots of coffee everyday will reduce a women’s risk of developing breast cancer

So, in conclusion one probably has no reason to quit coffee as there are very few studies if any that suggest that coffee increased risk of developing cancer.  However, it is unlikely that the data is so compelling that we all should drink 6 or more cups a coffee a day to prevent cancer either.  It seems like everything else….a healthy balance is best…and we should probably not overdo any beverage (water is probably an exception here) or food.

Thank you and do let me know if you have any comments

Dr. C   Cancer Made Simple


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s