Q: Is it true that coffee lowers cancer risk? If so, does the type of coffee roast or the way it’s prepared make a difference?
A: The clearest link between coffee and cancer risk is seen in the latest scientific report on preventing endometrial cancer from AICR/WCRF showing that coffee probably reduces risk of that cancer. That link was seen regardless of whether coffee was regular or decaf. Other analyses that have pulled together multiple studies suggest that coffee may decrease risk of liver, colorectal and other types of cancer.
Some of the substances in coffee that may protect against cancer include chlorogenic acids, caffeoylquininic acid and lignans. In laboratory tests, these compounds seem to turn on the antioxidant defense system and enzymes that deactivate carcinogens and encourage healthy levels of hormones related to cancer risk.
But there are still many questions about coffee and cancer risk. Studies looking at types of roast and methods for preparing coffee so far do not provide consistent answers about whether these factors influence the protective effects of coffee. Coffee brewed with paper filters (common in the United States), seems to pose less hazard for blood cholesterol levels compared to boiled coffee (popular in Nordic and Middle East countries), but that does not seem to apply to cancer risk. Follow your healthcare provider’s advice about coffee consumption as it relates to other health issues; for now, there’s no reason to fear coffee as a cancer risk, and not enough solid data to choose one type over another for better protection.
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, http://www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.