Coffee & Cancer?

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has released a new report offering some good news for those coffee drinkers. They believe the beverage is unlikely to increase your cancer risk and it may actually reduce it. It was also found that consuming very hot drinks could raise the risk of esophageal cancer.

Findings have been published in The Lancet Oncology by researchers across 10 countries, including Mariana Stern, associate professor of preventive medicine and urology at the University of Southern California.

It’s conclusion was reached by reviewing more than 1,000 studies looking at how consumption of hot beverages, which include coffee, yerba mate, and tea may influence the risk of numerous cancers.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) last evaluated coffee consumption in 1991. This evaluation deemed coffee drinking as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” after identifying “limited evidence” of a link between consumption of coffee and bladder cancer. The IARC did note that there have been numerous studies assessing the effect of coffee consumption over the past 25 years and these studies may explain the previous link with bladder cancer. This promotes a new review. It also revealed there is “inadequate evidence” to suggest that coffee consumption increases the risk of cancer. The majority of studies show this consumption does not increase the risk of cancers of the pancreas, breast and prostate.

The interesting finding though is that drinking a cup of coffee each day may reduce the risk of liver cancer by 15% while studies show a reduced risk of uterine and endometrial cancers with coffee consumption. Coffee consumption and 20 other cancers were inconclusive according to the review. IARC believes the new findings do not mean their last review was wrong to conclude a possible link between coffee consumption and bladder cancer, but more studies are not available to conclude the previously identified risk was due to other factors, such as smoking.

The new review drew some positive conclusions about coffee but also concluded that consuming very hot beverages is probably carcinogenic to humans. Drinking any beverage at a temperature of 149 degrees or higher may raise the risk of esophageal cancer that begins in the esophagus, the muscular tube that links the throat to the stomach. In South American countries it is common practice to consume beverages between 150-212 degrees. However, these countries also have high rates of esophageal cancer. There is physical evidence that very hot beverages can damage the cells lining the esophagus that may contribute to cancer development.

Learn to enjoy your coffee but do so with caution and make sure it’s not hot, hot! Why take a chance on those super hot drinks. Just cool those drinks down a bit before swallowing.

Dr Fredda Branyon

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