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Is it time to recommend coffee for prostate cancer prevention?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Is coffee good for stopping prostate cancer?

Results of a new study suggest coffee might be a natural intervention to keep prostate cancer from returning. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center investigators found men who drink 4 or more cups of coffee at day had a 59 percent lower chance that prostate cancer would recur. But should men count on coffee to stop cancer of the prostate?

Antioxidants and phytochemicals in coffee

According to the study authors, coffee has anti-inflammatory properties. Phytochemicals in coffee also act as antioxidants, making the brew a potentially natural way to help men battle prostate cancer that the researchers wanted to explore.

Though the finding did show coffee shows promise as a prostate cancer prevention, it isn’t quite time to recommend consuming it regularly as a way to prevent the disease until more is known about what compounds in the brew are anti-cancer.

For some, coffee could even cause problems, the researchers emphasized that include high blood pressure or higher cholesterol levels.

The study

For their study, Janet L. Stanford, Ph.D., co-director of the Program in Prostate Cancer Research and colleagues explored coffee and tea to see if bioactive compounds in the beverages can stop cancer from progressing or prevent it and if so, how much is beneficial.

They analyzed 1,001 prostate cancer survivors age 35 to 74. The men had been diagnosed with cancer between 2002 at 2005.

Two years before their diagnosis the men filled out food frequency questionnaires that included what kind of beverages they drank.

The men were also interviewed about family history of prostate cancer, medication use, and their prostate cancer screening history.

Five years after the men were diagnosed with prostate cancer the researchers followed up to find out if the cancer had returned or gotten worse.

Among the original 1,001 men, 630 answered questions about their coffee intake and were continued in the study.

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Twelve percent of the men drank four or more cups of coffee a day and 61 percent drank at least one cup a day.

Researchers used strict criteria to determine whether prostate cancer had recurred or progressed that they say differs from past studies.

Milan Geybels, who was a graduate student in Stanford’s Prostate Studies group at Fred Hutch when the study was conducted, said in a press release, “We used detailed information on follow-up prostate-specific antigen levels, use of secondary treatment for prostate cancer and data from scans and biopsies to assess occurrence of metastases and cause-specific mortality during follow up.”

The finding backs a Harvard study showing men who drink six or more cups of coffee a day have lower risk of prostate cancer and of dying from the disease.

Past studies show compounds in coffee might be effective for fighting ovarian and basal cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer) in addition to glioma – a cancer of the brain.

The compounds include diterpenes cafestol, kahweol, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, all of which have different anti-cancer properties.

What we don't know

The study did not take into account brewing methods or types of coffee consumed by the men. It’s also important to note not all coffee is equally beneficial when it comes to promoting health.

For instance, boiled Greek coffee has been suggested to promote heart health, which would mean men concerned about prostate cancer and with heart problems or high blood pressure could safely consume four or more cups of the beverage.

Studies also show possible harm from coffee that contains over 1,000 chemicals. One in particular, 4-methylimidazole, has been identified as a carcinogen by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP).

Acrylamide (2-propenamide) is formed when coffee is roasted. Some coffees have higher levels of the chemical that has been listed by the European Chemical Agency as ‘very high concern’ for being a carcinogen. Dark roast Arabica coffee has lower levels of acrylamide as does espresso.

We really won’t know if coffee is good prostate cancer prevention or can stop cancer from progressing until researchers conduct larger studies.

Royal Society of Chemistry