Coffee, Caffeine, and Cancer: What the Research Reveals

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Does Coffee Cause or Prevent Cancer?

Just decades ago doctors and health professionals were warning about the dangers of having too much coffee because of the risk that caffeine was thought to have on the body.

However, the last decade has shed a lot of light on the health benefits of coffee and its relationship to cancer.

Many decade or more long studies have been coming to a close and the results have been changing everything the medical profession thought they knew about coffee and how it influences the risks of getting cancer.

Study after study has been showing the cancer fighting properties of coffee because of the rich antioxidants it contains.

In fact, with most studies we aren’t just talking a cup or two a day since most studies show greater benefit when four or more caffeinated coffees are consumed daily.

Recent Caffeine, Coffee, and Cancer Studies

Here are just a few of the studies that support the notion that caffeinated coffee reduces risk of certain types of cancer.

  1. Oral Cancer: More than 4 cups of coffee a day decrease oral and head cancers by 39%.
  2. Uterine Cancer: Woman who drink more than two cups of coffee a day have less chance of uterine cancer.
  3. Prostate Cancer: Men who have 6 cups of coffee a day reduce their prostate cancer risk by 60%.
  4. Brain Cancer: At least 5 cups of coffee prevents certain types of brain cancer by 40%.
  5. Colon Cancer: At least 2 cups of coffee a day can cut colon cancer risk by 25%. A newer study showed that colon cancer patients who drank four or more servings of coffee a day were 42% less likely to have bowel cancer recurrence after surgery and treatment. This study was conducted by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. An even newer study also supported this previous research regarding the reduced risk of colorectal cancer among coffee drinkers.
  6. Breast Cancer: At least 3 cups of coffee a day can prevent or delay the onset of certain types of breast cancer. Another study showed that at least 2 cups of coffee consumed along side the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, resulted in 49% less early breast cancer recurrence among breast cancer patients in Sweden.
  7. Liver Cancer: Coffee drinkers have 41% less instance of liver cancer. A more recent study showed that 1-3 cups of coffee a day reduces risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma by 29%. Link
  8. Endometrial Cancer: Women who consume at least 3 cups of coffee a day have a 19% decreased risk of developing endometrial cancer, which claims the lives of about 10,000 women in the USA each year. The research.
  9. Caffeine protects against lung cancer. A new study published in the Experimental Hematology & Oncology journal showed that caffeine inhibits a couple of proteins found in lung cancer cells, which in turn prevents the cell’s growth and reproduction. The study.
  10. Skin Cancer: A recent study published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that caffeinated coffee drinkers were less likely to develop melanoma. The more coffee people consumed the less risk was observed. Study abstract.

Caffeinated Coffee as Part of a Healthy Diet

While the coffee/cancer research isn’t definitive, it does reveal that drinking coffee is probably far more beneficial than harmful as long as the person can metabolize caffeine correctly and doesn’t suffer from a caffeine allergy or from excessive use.

In most of the studies, it was found that decaffeinated coffee didn’t appear to have the same effect, which is probably due to the decaffeinating process removing many of the antioxidants.

However, we would suspect that people who eat poor quality food and engage in unhealthy habits such as smoking and excessive drinking would not likely experience the cancer fighting properties coffee has to offer.

But, coffee as part of a healthy diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit will most likely have the greatest anticancer benefits.

People should also note that because of the caffeine in coffee, moderation is also recommended and less than 400mg of caffeine from all sources a day seems to be a safe level for most healthy adults.

The World Health Organization recently removed coffee from their list of possible carcinogens. They cited that there is an overwhelming amount of research that coffee can promote health and actually inhibit cancer. However, they did note that drinking coffee at temperatures in excess of 140 degrees Fahrenheit can increase the risk of cancers of the throat and esophagus. This temperature is much higher than which coffee is typically consumed.

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Last Modified: June 22, 2016

References

  • Holick, C. N., Smith, S. G., Giovannucci, E., & Michaud, D. S. (2010). Coffee, tea, caffeine intake, and risk of adult glioma in three prospective cohort studies. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 19(1), 39-47.
  • Wang, G., Bhoopalan, V., Wang, D., Wang, L., & Xu, X. (2015). The effect of caffeine on cisplatin-induced apoptosis of lung cancer cells. Experimental Hematology & Oncology, 4(1), 5.
  • Loftfield, E., Freedman, N. D., Graubard, B. I., Hollenbeck, A. R., Shebl, F. M., Mayne, S. T., & Sinha, R. (2015). Coffee Drinking and Cutaneous Melanoma Risk in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 107(2), dju421.
  • Rosendahl, A. H., Perks, C. M., Zeng, L., Markkula, A., Simonsson, M., Rose, C., ... & Jernström, H. (2015). Caffeine and Caffeic Acid Inhibit Growth and Modify Estrogen Receptor and Insulin-like Growth Factor I Receptor Levels in Human Breast Cancer. Clinical Cancer Research, 21(8), 1877-1887.