Research news and views on preventing and surviving cancer
Author: Edward L. Giovannucci, MD, ScD
Dr. Edward Giovannucci, is a professor in the departments of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and an associate professor in the department of medicine at the Harvard Medical School. Dr. Giovannucci is a current AICR grantee working on diet strategies that can prevent prostate cancer from progressing.
A pending lawsuit in California is suing for coffee to be labeled with a cancer warning. A favorable ruling would require coffee houses in California to warn their customers about potential cancer risk. The justification for this lawsuit is that acrylamide, which is found in roasted coffee beans, has been linked to cancer in rats.
On a “cancer worry” scale from 0 to 10, coffee should be solidly at 0 and smoking at 10; they should not have similar warning labels.
While well intended, this lawsuit is profoundly misguided. Relatively small amounts of acrylamide is common in many food items besides coffee. The levels that cause cancer in rats are much higher than those consumed through coffee and diet in general. The studies that have measured levels of acrylamide in the blood in humans, including in high coffee consumers, have shown no hint of increased cancer risk. Read more… “Coffee Doesn’t Need Cancer Warning”
To understand this change, it is important to examine the nature of the evidence used to reach the new conclusion. Most of the evidence is based on studies that record what men are eating, or measure blood lycopene levels, and then follow the men for any diagnosis of prostate cancer.
Then dietary or blood factors are linked to risk of cancer diagnosis. Statistical methods are used to account for other factors. Because these studies are examining associations, which may not necessarily be causal, other considerations such as biologic plausibility are taken into account in formulating the conclusions.