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Could Your Morning Cup of Joe Be Associated with Reducing Cancer Risks?
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Jennifer Fitzgibbon

STONY BROOK, NY, APRIL 13, 2015 – Coffee is a morning staple for most Americans who turn to a hot cup to help increase wakefulness and to try to improve concentration and focus. Coffee is known as the world’s most popular beverage, with over one billion drinkers world-wide and 6.7 million tons global consumption yearly. But over the years there has been some conflicting reports on whether having that cup of Joe is good or bad for your health?

If you enjoy that morning cup of fresh brew, you might want to listen up. Recent reports from the American Institute for Cancer Research shows that new studies are finding positive cancer fighting benefits to the plant Coffea canephora.

“As per "The Food Timeline," Food historians say that coffee was highly prized for its taste and perceived medicinal qualities,” says Jennifer Fitzgibbon, Registered Oncology Dietitian, Stony Brook University Cancer Center. But aside from that morning perk, Fitzgibbon says there are now other, newer, cancer fighting benefits such as lowering the risk factors for:

  • Liver Cancer: Coffee consumption reduces risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, by about 40 percent, according to a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. The data indicates that three cups of coffee per day reduce liver cancer risk by more than 50 percent. The American Institute of Cancer Research states it is because “coffee may act on liver enzymes that eliminate carcinogens.”
  • Oral/pharyngeal Cancer: Drinking coffee also showed reduced risk of death from patients who had oral/pharyngeal (mouth and throat) cancer. People who drank more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day were about half as likely to die from oral/pharyngeal cancer as people who drank coffee only occasionally or not at all.
  • Colorectal Cancer: In another study, people who drank four or more cups of coffee a day — regular or decaf — had a 15 percent lower risk of colon cancer compared with coffee abstainers.
  • Prostate Cancer: Coffee contains many biologically active compounds that have potent antioxidant activity and can affect glucose metabolism and sex hormone levels. Because of these biological activities, coffee may be also be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.  Research has shown risk reduction in caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee in prostate cancer and risk-reduction was increased with six or more cups daily- still showing benefit from drinking one-to three cups a day.  
  • Endometrial Cancer: Coffee may help women lower their risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) according to research. Women in a large study who drank more than 4 cups of coffee a day had a 25% lower risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Skin Cancer: According to study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, coffee can also protect you against skin cancer. The results of the research showed that the participants who had the highest intake of coffee had the lowest risk of basal and malignant melanoma. Their risk of developing skin cancer was 20% lower than the case of those who drank only 4 more cups a day. Caffeine could be the reason for the apparent protection. The researchers found a significant decrease in melanoma risk only among those who drank caffeinated coffee, and previous studies have indicated that caffeine could protect skin cells against ultraviolet-B radiation. 

But Fitzgibbon says more studies are needed establish the connection of this link and to find the true reason behind these benefits. And she also warns – there are some possible downsides of too drinking too much coffee.

Coffee-lovers who drink 4 or more cups a day/more than 500 to 600 mg a day — may feel some side effects like insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, stomach upset, fast heartbeat and muscle tremors. And some people are more sensitive to caffeine than are others, so one cup could push them to feel some of these unwanted effects. The good news is that you can still drink decaffeinated coffee and still gain cancer fighting benefits.