More Hot Research: Coffee May Lower Risk of Oral Cancer

Hot on the heels of AICR’s latest summary of the evidence on coffee and cancer risk in our Foods that Fight Cancer, a new study published this week found that drinking coffee – with caffeine – may help protect against death from oral/pharyngeal cancers.

Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology the researchers report a strong association for lower risk from caffeinated coffee. The link for decaffeinated coffee was weaker, though suggested some benefit. They found no association for tea.

Oral cancers are among the most deadly of cancers, primarily because they are often not diagnosed early. These cancers are also highly preventable.

Tobacco and alcohol use are by far the strongest risk factors for these cancers, and human papillomavirus (HPV) also increases risk. AICR’s expert report and its updates found that non-starchy vegetables, fruits and foods containing carotenoids protect against oral/pharyngeal cancers.

In this new study, the researchers followed 968,000 participants from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II from 1982 to 2008 and gathered data on coffee and tea consumption along with other lifestyle factors. They identified 868 deaths from oral/pharyngeal cancer deaths during that time.

When comparing the people who had the highest coffee intake (more than 4 cups/day) to those who had the lowest intake (none or occasional), those at the highest intake had a 49% lower risk of oral/pharyngeal cancer death. Smoking status, alcohol intake and sex did not affect coffee’s effect on risk.

This study adds to the evidence that coffee could offer protection against some cancers. How coffee may work to lower risk of cancer and cancer death is not yet known, but coffee does contain many substances that lab studies show help control cell growth and increase cancer cell death. In addition to caffeine, coffee contains lignans and phytochemicals, including cafestol, chlorogenic acid and kahweol.

Although it’s too early to recommend coffee as a cancer-fighting food, we do know that coffee does not increase risk for kidney and pancreatic cancers and some evidence is pointing to possible protective effects.

Keep in mind though that your coffee loaded with sugar, high-fat milk and whipped cream, adds calories that can lead to weight gain. And overweight and obesity causes several types of cancer.

For more information on coffee and cancer:

AICR’s Foods that Fight Cancer: Coffee

Prevent Cancer with Your Morning Joe?


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