Drink coffee to lower your risk of cancer. Two new studies show that regular coffee drinking is associated with less risk of skin or colon cancer—and we’re not talking about just one cup! Rather, drinking three to more than six cups of coffee a day appear to be most beneficial for cancer prevention.
A new large-scale study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition surveyed 489,706 people for coffee and tea intake and cancer rates over a decade. This was a self-reported study and should be looked at with caution, but the overall finding was that people who drank more than six cups of caffeinated coffee a day had less risk of colon cancer. The association between greater coffee intake and less colon cancer risk was noticeable starting with four or more cups a day. There was also a strong association between drinking more than four cups of decaffeinated coffee and less risk of colon and rectal cancer.
Interestingly, there was no association between tea intake and decreased cancer risk. This may be due to the fact that the overall tea intake was very low (Americans drink less than one pound of tea a year and more than seven pounds of coffee!). Lab studies have provided very promising outcomes for cancer prevention from green tea, but human studies haven’t produced the expected results. It is possible high daily intake in the six-cup range of antioxidant-rich green tea is necessary.
More support for the benefits of coffee for cancer prevention was published in the journal Cancer Research. Scientists looked at rates of coffee intake and basal cell carcinoma—a type of skin cancer that normally develops on the head, neck, nose, and ears.. The study included 110,000 people over 24 years and found that those who drank more than three cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 17 percent reduction in developing skin cancer compared to those who drank less than one cup per month. Women benefited slightly more than men from the three-cup intake.
Drinking decaf did not provide any noticeable benefit in this study. Rather, the primary outcome was that the antioxidants in coffee was most protective. Drinking tea or eating chocolate—also rich in antioxidants—was also mildly protective against skin cancer.
Take away from these studies the awareness that it is what you do everyday that will have the greatest impact on your health and well being. Occasionally sipping a cup of tea or coffee probably won’t have a beneficial effect, but if you drink tea or coffee daily (in fairly large quantities apparently!) you may prevent cancer. To get more of the protective antioxidants found in coffee or green tea, it’s also possible to take them in supplemental form, but again, this is not the sort of thing that will provide much benefit unless you make it a lifestyle habit!
Song, F., Qureshi, A., et al. Increased Caffeine Intake is Associated with Reduced Risk of Basal Cell Carcinoma of the Skin. Cancer Research. 2012. 72, 3282.
Sinha, R., Cross, A., et al. Caffeinated and Decaffeinated Coffee and Tea Intakes and Risk of Colorectal Cancer in a Large Prospective Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012. 96, 378-381.