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Daily Consumption of Coffee May Prevent Relapse of Colon Cancer

Daily Consumption of Coffee May Prevent Relapse of Colon Cancer

A large study conducted at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has reported a link between drinking caffeinated coffee and the chance of colon cancer relapse after treatment. This study is the first of its kind to show this association, the results of which were published online earlier this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The patients in this study were all diagnosed with stage III colon cancer, and treated using surgery and chemotherapy. The coffee-drinking patients were 42 percent less likely to have a relapse in their colon cancer, and had a 34 percent lower mortality rate compared to their non-coffee-drinking counterparts.

The study participants benefitted most by consuming four or more cups of coffee a day; the equivalent to about 460 milligrams of caffeine. While two to three cups of coffee daily showed a slight benefit, there was little advantage to drinking one cup or less.

The participants totaled almost 1,000 patients whose dietary patterns were monitored by self-administered questionnaires at three points; the start of the study, while patients were undergoing chemotherapy, and approximately one year after the cancer treatment. Since these data were collected during the study period – and not retroactively – the researchers were able to eliminate a potential source of bias.

“We found that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of the cancer coming back, and a significantly greater survival and chance of a cure,” said Charles S. Fuchs, the researcher who led the study. Patients with stage III colon cancer have cancerous cells in the lymph nodes but do not show signs of progressing metastasis, and have about a 35 percent change of cancer relapse after treatment. In this study, the researchers noticed that the majority of recurrences occurred within five years of treatment.

In light of the preliminary nature of these findings, Fuchs is unwilling to recommend that all colon cancer patients start drinking in excess of four cups of coffee every day. “If you are a coffee drinker and are being treated for colon cancer, don’t stop,” he said. “But if you’re not a coffee drinker and wondering whether to start, you should first discuss it with your physician.”

While this is the first study to link coffee consumption and colon cancer recurrence, there have been a number of recent studies that link coffee to a decreased risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer, melanoma, liver cancer and advanced prostate cancer, to name a few. Coffee has also been implicated in a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the risk factors for which – obesity, a diet high in sugar, an inactive life style and increased levels of insulin – are similar to those for colon cancer.

The researchers were able to identify that caffeine was the component of coffee responsible for the decreased risk of cancer recurrence and death. Fuchs commented that it has been speculated that caffeine may heighten the body’s sensitivity to insulin, decreasing insulin levels in the blood. The lowered insulin concentration may decrease inflammation in the body which may play a key role in the development of cancer in the first place.