Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Can Coffee Decrease Risk of Cancer?
Despite conflicting research over the past few years, a large study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that drinking coffee could reduce a woman’s chance of developing certain types of cancer later in life.
Researchers looked at 67,000 women between the ages of 34 and 59 and noted their coffee habits and occurrence of cancer. Women who drank 4+ cups of coffee a day had a 25% lower risk of developing endometrial cancer than women who had 2-3 cups per day. (Those who drank 2-3 cups per day still had a 7% decreased risk of cancer as compared to non-coffee drinkers)
Coffee (both caffeinated and decaf) has known beneficial compounds that have been shown to reduce estrogen and insulin levels. But, perhaps inevitably, the study illustrates that coffee cannot overpower health issues, such as obesity or tobacco dependence, that increase the risk of cancer.
I remain skeptical about the Harvard study because it seems particularly difficult to keep all factors identical when comparing coffee drinkers with non-coffee drinkers. It seems unlikely that this was a truly controlled study. Most likely, java junkies tended to drink fewer unhealthy, sugary soft drinks and therefore reduced their risk of cancer by replacing a comparatively poorer health choice with coffee .
Coffee beans are a valuable source of antioxidants and have numerous benefits (cognitive performance, analgesic enhancement, etc) however, it is important to remember that the effect of coffee is simply correlated with decreased cancer risk and, for the time being, is not a direct causation.