Drink up? Why Coffee Might Block the Spread of Cancer

It’s no secret that Americans love coffee. Consider that, according to the National Coffee Association, nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States drink coffee on a daily basis. Aside from perking you up, there may be a much more important effect of all that coffee consumption.

Hitting the Brakes

Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have recently found that coffee could prevent cancer cells from spreading. Their study, which appeared in the journal JAMA Oncology, reviewed the coffee-drinking habits of nearly 1,200 adults, all of whom had been metastatic colorectal cancer (metastatic cancers refer to cancers that have broken away from their originating point and spread to other areas of the body). 

Compared to participants who completely shunned coffee, those that drank two or three cups of java per day fared better over an extended period of time. Not only did it take longer for cancer symptoms to worsen among these participants, but the adults in this group also outlived the non-coffee drinkers. For heavy coffee drinkers – that is, adults who consumed at least five cups of coffee daily – these benefits were even more pronounced.

What’s the Verdict?

Before you rush out to your nearest coffee shop, it should be stressed that the Dana-Farber team only found an association between coffee consumption and better outcomes for cancer victims. In other words, they cannot definitively state that drinking coffee slows the spread of cancerous cells. 

Still, there is reason for optimism. The study’s lead author, Kimmie Ng, stated that “Although it is premature to recommend a high intake of coffee as a potential treatment for colorectal cancer, our study suggests that drinking coffee is not harmful and may potentially be beneficial.” Ng further noted that more work needs to be done to better understand coffee’s impact on cancer. “Further research is needed to determine if there is indeed a causal connection between coffee consumption and improved outcomes in patients with colorectal cancer, and precisely which compounds within coffee are responsible for this benefit.”

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