Drinking coffee daily may improve survival in colon cancer patients

August 17, 2015, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Credit: George Hodan/public domain

Regular consumption of caffeinated coffee may help prevent the return of colon cancer after treatment and improve the chances of a cure, according to a new, large study from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that reported this striking association for the first time.

The , all of them treated with surgery and chemotherapy for stage III , had the greatest benefit from consuming four or more cups of a day (about 460 milligrams of caffeine), according to the study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. These patients were 42 percent less likely to have their cancer return than non-coffee drinkers, and were 33 percent less likely to die from cancer or any other cause.

Two to three cups of coffee daily had a more modest benefit, while little protection was associated with one cup or less, reported the researchers, led by Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber. First author is Brendan J. Guercio, MD, also of Dana-Farber.

The study included nearly 1,000 patients who filled out dietary pattern questionnaires early in the study, during chemotherapy and again about a year later. This "prospective" design eliminated patients' need to recall their coffee-drinking habits years later - a source of potential bias in many observational studies.

"We found that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of the cancer coming back and a significantly greater survival and chance of a cure," Fuchs said. Most recurrences happen within five years of treatment and are uncommon after that, he noted. In patients with stage III disease, the cancer has been found in the lymph nodes near the original tumor but there are no signs of further metastasis. Fuchs said these patients have about a 35 percent chance of recurrence.

Regular consumption of caffeinated coffee may help prevent the return of colon cancer after treatment and improve the chances of a cure, according to a new, large study led by Charles Fuchs, M.D., M.P.H., of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Credit: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

As encouraging as the results appear to be, Fuchs is hesitant to make recommendations to patients until the results are confirmed in other studies. "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."

Fuchs said the study is the first to study an association between caffeinated coffee and risk of colon cancer recurrence. It adds to a number of recent studies suggesting that coffee may have protective effects against the development of several kinds of cancer, including reduced risks of postmenopausal breast cancer, melanoma, liver cancer, advanced prostate cancer.

Fuchs said the research focused on coffee and other dietary factors because coffee drinking - in addition to possibly being protective against some cancers - had been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Risk factors for diabetes - obesity, a sedentary life style, a Western diet high in calories and sugar, and high levels of insulin - are also implicated in colon cancer.

In analyzing the results of the new study, Fuchs and his colleagues discovered that the lowered risk of cancer recurrence and deaths was entirely due to caffeine and not other components of coffee. He said it's not clear why caffeine has this effect and the question needs further study. One hypothesis is that caffeine consumption increases the body's sensitivity to insulin so less of it is needed, which in turn may help reduce inflammation - a risk factor for diabetes and cancer, Fuchs said.

Other than drinking coffee, Fuchs said, people can take other measures to reduce risks - avoiding obesity, exercising regularly, adopting a healthier diet, and eating nuts, which also reduce the risk of diabetes.

Explore further: Findings confirm that coffee protects against breast cancer recurrence

Related Stories

Findings confirm that coffee protects against breast cancer recurrence

April 21, 2015
A number of research studies have shown that coffee helps to protect against breast cancer. A new study led by Lund University, has confirmed that coffee inhibits the growth of tumours and reduces the risk of recurrence in ...

Drinking decaf coffee maybe good for the liver

October 9, 2014
Researchers from the National Cancer Institute report that decaffeinated coffee drinking may benefit liver health. Results of the study published in Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver ...

Coffee may help prevent breast cancer returning, study finds

April 25, 2013
Drinking coffee could decrease the risk of breast cancer recurring in patients taking the widely used drug Tamoxifen, a study at Lund University in Sweden has found. Patients who took the pill, along with two or more cups ...

Coffee may be associated with a lower risk of malignant melanoma

January 20, 2015
Both epidemiological and pre-clinical studies have suggested that coffee consumption has a protective effect against non-melanoma skin cancers. However the protective effect for cutaneous melanoma (malignant and in situ) ...

Coffee may protect against endometrial cancer

November 22, 2011
Long-term coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk for endometrial cancer, according to a recent study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

New research: Coffee not associated with lifestyle diseases

July 9, 2015
Danish researchers are the first in the world to have used our genes to investigate the impact of coffee on the body. The new study shows that coffee neither increases nor decreases the risk of lifestyle diseases.

Recommended for you

Scientists sharpen the edges of cancer chemotherapy with CRISPR

July 13, 2018
Tackling unsolved problems is a cornerstone of scientific research, propelled by the power and promise of new technologies. Indeed, one of the shiniest tools in the biomedical toolkit these days is the genome editing system ...

Looking at the urine and blood may be best in diagnosing myeloma

July 13, 2018
When it comes to diagnosing a condition in which the plasma cells that normally make antibodies to protect us instead become cancerous, it may be better to look at the urine as well as the serum of our blood for answers, ...

Massive genome havoc in breast cancer is revealed

July 12, 2018
In cancer cells, genetic errors wreak havoc. Misspelled genes, as well as structural variations—larger-scale rearrangements of DNA that can encompass large chunks of chromosomes—disturb carefully balanced mechanisms that ...

Study shows biomarker panel boosts lung cancer risk assessment for smokers

July 12, 2018
A four-protein biomarker blood test improves lung cancer risk assessment over existing guidelines that rely solely upon smoking history, capturing risk for people who have ever smoked, not only for heavy smokers, an international ...

Discovering the mechanisms that underlie prostate cancer

July 12, 2018
New research has uncovered insights into the mechanisms that underlie prostate cancer, providing potential targets for new cancer therapies.

New method reveals how well cancer drugs hit their targets

July 12, 2018
Scientists have developed a technique that allows them to measure how well cancer drugs reach their targets inside the body. It shows individual cancer cells in a tumour in real time, revealing which cells interact with the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.