Does Drinking Coffee "Prevent" Cancer?

A pair of studies released this week will likely spur much attention among the mainstream press about the benefits of drinking coffee. One study found drinking coffee daily is associated with a decreased risk of liver cancer, while the other found no association between drinking coffee or tea and the risk of colorectal cancer.

In the former study, based on population-based research of middle-aged and elderly Japanese patients, those who drank coffee on a daily or regular basis had about half the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a type of liver cancer, compared with those who never drank coffee. In fact, the rate of liver cancer among those who never drank coffee was significantly higher -- 547.2 cases per 100,000 over 10 years -- than those who did regularly (214.6 cases per 100,000). Moreover, the risk of HCC decreased with an increase in the amount of coffee consumed each day.

In the latter study, U.S. researchers found no link between caffeinated coffee or tea consumption and the incidence of colorectal cancer. However, those who regularly drank two or more cups per day of decaffeinated coffee had about half the incidence of rectal cancer compared with those who never drank decaffeinated coffee.

Now, before you head to your neighborhood "designer" coffee shop, there are several major caveats to consider. For one, the results of countless studies done on coffee tend to conflict quite a lot. Drinking coffee may also interfere with your body's ability to keep homocysteine and cholesterol levels in check, most likely by inhibiting the action of the vitamins folate, B12 or B6.

And, coffee has been previously associated with an increased risk of stroke and rheumatoid arthritis.

That said, coffee is clearly not the healthiest liquid to drink -- the best choice is pure water -- but coffee and caffeine are far less dangerous to your health than fruit juices or carbonated soft drinks.

EurekAlert February 15, 2005

Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 97, No. 4, 293-300, February 16, 2005

Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 97, No. 4, 282-292, February 16, 2005

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