Coffee & Cancer

10th July 2019, Jenni Allan, Freelance Author

Is it safe for cancer patients to drink coffee?

People love to drink a hot cup of coffee to start their day. In Malaysia, the average person consumes about 2.5 cups of coffee each day. In the past years, coffee has been linked to cancer but there is still inconclusive evidence about whether coffee has a positive or negative impact on the health of people.

In 2016, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) removed coffee from the list of carcinogenic substances based on current studies. However, a 2018 California court ruling brought coffee to the limelight again as it included acrylamide, which is formed in the roasting process, in the list of chemicals that increase the risk of cancer. Patients diagnosed with cancer are more conscious of their food choices to help them through the recovery process. Should they avoid or continue drinking coffee? Let’s see what the research says about it. 

Coffee and the Risk of Cancer

The results of most studies showed that drinking coffee is not related to increase cancer risk. A 2019 meta-analysis provided strong quantitative data that coffee consumption is not related to breast cancer and ovarian cancer risk.  In a study with 29,133 male smokers, similar results were found as coffee drinking was not associated with urinary tract cancers. 

A 2017 study showed that drinking two cups of coffee a day is associated with lower risks of cancer. The IARC stated that coffee may offer protection against the development of certain types of cancers such as liver or endometrial cancers. Coffee may also help protect you from oral cancer, skin cancer, and prostate cancer.  In a study in Singapore, researchers concluded that consumption of caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea reduces the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer among people of Chinese descent.

In addition to protection from cancer, coffee also helps lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Moderate intake of coffee reduces the risk of death from any illnesses. You may also want to try different flavors of coffee to add variety to your coffee habit.

Coffee and Cancer Survival

Some studies provide evidence suggesting consumption of coffee is associated with a greater chance of surviving cancer. Patients who consumed four or more cups of coffee experienced the most benefit. Cancer recurrence was 42 percent less likely for these individuals. Modest benefits were found for people who drank two to three cups of coffee each day.

To drink or not to drink?

The research about coffee and cancer is plenty, yet remains inconclusive. There is a need for more research to determine whether coffee is safe for cancer patients.  The status quo is that if you drink coffee before being diagnosed with cancer, then there is no reason to stop the habit.  You may also want to stick to the basic black coffee. However, if you are not a coffee drinker before the diagnosis, experts don’t recommend to start drinking coffee. Drinking coffee is still better than drinking soda as it contains antioxidants associated with better health outcomes.   

While there are studies providing evidence that coffee protects individuals against some types of cancer, there are studies showing it is linked to increased risk of being diagnosed with cancer or studies stating that there is no relationship at all. More research is necessary to determine whether drinking coffee benefits cancer patients. For now, you can consult with your doctor and enjoy your cup of java.