Coffee And Cancer: What The Research Shows
Numerous studies have shown that coffee drinking is associated with a lower risk of dying from all causes of death.
However, associations with cancer overall or with specific types of cancer are unclear.
In 2016, an expert working group convened for the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs Programme reviewed the world’s body of human and laboratory research on coffee drinking and cancer risk, and they found evidence of carcinogenicity of coffee drinking to be “unclassifiable”.
They also found that coffee drinking is not a cause of female breast, pancreas, and prostate cancers, but may reduce the risk of uterine, endometrium and liver cancers. The evidence was judged to be inadequate for other cancer types. Reasons for the lack of convincing evidence included inconsistent results across studies and issues with data quality.
Additionally, because people who smoke also tend to be coffee drinkers, it is difficult to completely account for tobacco use in studies of coffee and strongly tobacco-related cancers.
These issues can be addressed by examining risk in people who don't smoke, or with detailed statistical adjustment for smoking. For example, early research suggested that coffee increased the risk of bladder cancer, but the true causal factor was later found to be smoking.
Recent studies find that coffee may lower the risk of several types of cancer, including head and neck, colorectal, breast, and liver cancer, although the potential beneficial effects of coffee are not completely understood.
Hundreds of biologically active compounds including caffeine, flavonoids, lignans, and other polyphenols are found in roasted coffee.
These and other coffee compounds have been shown to increase energy expenditure, inhibit cellular damage, regulate genes involved in DNA repair, have anti-inflammatory properties and/or inhibit metastasis, among other activities.
There is also evidence that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, which has been linked to higher risks of colorectal, liver, breast and endometrial cancer incidence and/or mortality.
Wierzejska R. Coffee consumption vs. cancer risk - a review of scientific data. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2015;66(4):293-8. PMID: 26656410.
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