Caffeinated coffee consumption ‘clearly’ does not increase cancer risk, studies show
Consumption of caffeinated coffee does not appear to increase risk for various cancer types, according to a review article published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
“The results of many prospective cohort studies provide strong evidence that consumption of coffee and caffeine is not associated with an increased incidence of cancer or an increased rate for death [of] cancer,” Rob M. van Dam, PhD, epidemiology domain leader and professor at National University of Singapore, and colleagues wrote in the article. “Coffee consumption is associated with a slightly reduced risk [for] melanoma, nonmelanoma skin cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Stronger inverse associations have been observed between coffee consumption and the risk [for] endometrial cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. For endometrial cancer, the associations are similar with caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, whereas for hepatocellular carcinoma, the association appears to be stronger with caffeinated coffee.”
Van Dam told Healio about what prompted this research, implications of the findings and what future research should entail.
Question: What prompted this review article?
Answer: Many studies on the short-term and long-term health effects of coffee and caffeine have been conducted in the past few decades. We believed it would be useful to summarize this evidence for clinicians and other interested readers.
Q: What new information does this article provide regarding cancer risk?
A: We summarized evidence from well-conducted epidemiological studies that clearly show coffee consumption does not increase risk for cancer. In contrast, for selected cancers, higher coffee consumption has been consistently linked with a lower risk. The strongest evidence exists for HCC, with an estimated 40% lower risk with consumption of three cups of coffee per day compared with no coffee consumption. This is consistent with findings in mechanistic studies that indicate caffeine may reduce hepatic fibrosis. In addition, coffee consumption has been linked to a lower risk for endometrial cancer, with similar associations for caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee suggesting that noncaffeine components of coffee may play a beneficial role.
Q: What is the key recommendation regarding coffee/caffeine intake?
A: If people enjoy coffee or tea, they can continue drinking these caffeinated beverages without being concerned that this may have detrimental effects on their risk for cancer.
Q: What still needs to be examined in future research regarding coffee intake and cancer?
A: More research on the mechanisms that may underlie the putative beneficial effects of coffee consumption on liver cancer and endometrial cancer will be of great interest.
Q: What is the takeaway for oncologists?
A: In general, there is no need to discourage patients from consuming coffee to reduce their risk for cancer. There may even be benefits for selected types of cancer, and consumption of coffee and tea fits into a healthy lifestyle. However, we would not go so far as to recommend that patients who do not enjoy coffee start drinking this beverage for its potential health benefits. Most evidence is based on epidemiological studies, and we cannot fully exclude the possibility that there are other characteristics of coffee consumers that contribute to their lower risk for liver and endometrial cancer.
For more information:
Rob M. van Dam, PhD, can be reached at National University of Singapore, Tahir Foundation Building, Block MDI, 12 Science Drive 2, #10-01U, Singapore 117549; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.