Yesterday, scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Massachusetts made a novel connection between drinking coffee and reduced risk of returning colon cancer.
Almost 1,000 patients were involved in the study, and all had received chemotherapy treatment for stage III colon cancer. To reduce bias, scientists involved in the study questioned the patients on their coffee-drinking habits during chemotherapy and again a year later, when they recorded which patients had remained cancer-free and which had not.
In general, coffee-drinkers were at a “lower risk of the cancer coming back and a significantly greater survival and chance of a cure,” lead researcher Charles Fuchs reported. The best results came from individuals who claimed to drink four or more cups of coffee per day. Those who drank only two or three cups had less significant benefits, and those drinking one or less had almost no protection from cancer return associated with them.
According to the study, four or more cups of coffee contain about 460 milligrams of caffeine. The researchers were quick to specify that the potential benefits came strictly from the caffeine as opposed to other components of coffee. Although Fuchs says the patients receiving treatment for stage III colon cancer have a 35% chance of the cancer recurring, he does not recommend colon cancer patients who do not drink coffee to begin the habit in order to ward off cancer recurrence.
Fuchs’ hesitance is explained further by cancer researcher Dr. Alfred Neugut in an interview with the New York Times: “Think about it – people who drink a lot of coffee tend to be high stress, high pressure, intense and compulsive.” The Columbia University professor says that “if they have cancer, they’re going to be more obsessive about following all the rules and doing all the things they’re supposed to do. So it may be that coffee itself is playing a physiological role, but it may also be a surrogate marker for you being a compulsive health-conscious good behaver.”
Although some of the details may be fuzzy, there is no denying that this study was the first of its kind, making a connection between coffee drinking and the return of colon cancer after chemotherapy treatments. More studies must be and will be done in order to pinpoint the direct explanation of the correlation found in this study, but it will not be surprising if caffeine proves to be a direct player in cancer health. Currently, caffeine is known to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, risk factors of which are also apparent in colon cancer patients.
Fuchs summarizes the present significance of the study’s results like this: “If you’re a coffee drinker and enjoy your coffee, stick with it.”
In the video below, Dr. Josh Axe describes in broader detail the pros and cons of coffee drinking.
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