JUN 10, 2017 5:32 AM PDT

Coffee Could Cut Liver Cancer Risks by Half

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Coffee is once again in the spotlight as associated with a cancer. And this time, the study results seem to favor the cup-a-day coffee lover, again.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Earlier this year, scientists from Italy reported that men who drink Italian coffee had a significant reduction in prostate cancer risks, as compared to men who didn’t drink any coffee. But the health benefits of coffee need not be confined to one gender, according to a new study that found coffee lowers risk of liver cancer, specifically hepatocellular carcinoma, in both sexes.

The current study is based on a meta-analysis of 26 observational studies, which provided data on a combined total of over 2.25 million participants. Researchers teased apart the amount of coffee consumed, as well as the type of coffee - caffeinated versus decaffeinated.

The researchers found that just one cup of coffee a day was associated with a 20 percent decrease in risk for hepatocellular carcinoma. Those that want an even higher risk reduction would need to consume more coffee - two cups a day led to a 35 percent reduction in risk, while five cups a day was associated with nearly a 50 percent reduction in risk.

And more than five cups a day? Well, the jury is still out on whether this large amount corresponds with any more benefit for liver cancer risk reduction. But if you really want to maximize coffee’s effects on lowering liver cancer risks, then stick with caffeinated, as the decaffeinated form had less dramatic effects.

"We're not suggesting that everyone should start drinking five cups of coffee a day though. There needs to be more investigation into the potential harms of high coffee-caffeine intake, and there is evidence it should be avoided in certain groups such as pregnant women,” said Dr. Oliver Kennedy, the study’s lead author.

Indeed, the main active ingredient in regular coffee is caffeine, a compound that’s considered a psychoactive drug since it alters blood flow and electrical activity in the brain. The stimulant is also quite addictive, and people can build a tolerance to caffeine without even knowing it. So while five cups a day may sound reasonable for some people, consuming this much caffeine can produce side effects, such as ireggular heartbeat, muscle tremors, upset stomach, migraines, and irritability. Recently, a teen’s sudden death was ruled as “caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia.”

“Nevertheless, our findings are an important development given the increasing evidence of HCC globally and its poor prognosis,” said Dr. Kennedy. "Coffee is widely believed to possess a range of health benefits, and these latest findings suggest it could have a significant effect on liver cancer risk.”

Additional source: MNT

About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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