Drinking Coffee Reduces The Risk Of Developing Oral Cancer
December 13, 2012

Drinking Coffee Reduces The Risk Of Developing Oral Cancer

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

When it comes to coffee, there´s been good news and there´s been bad news. Some good news revolves around studies that have shown the aromatic beans help control symptoms of Parkinson´s disease and reduces the risk of diabetes. On the flip side, studies have also shown that drinking that morning cup of joe can lead to blindness.

Now there is more good news.

A new study, published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology on December 9, 2012, has found that drinking your coffee may be lowering your risk for oral and pharyngeal cancers.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that people who drank more than four cups of caffeinated coffee per day had half the risk of dying from oral and pharyngeal cancer compared to those who never drank or only drank coffee occasionally.

“Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, and contains a variety of antioxidants, polyphenols, and other biologically active compounds that may help to protect against development or progression of cancers,” Janet Hildebrand, MPH, an epidemiologist with ACS, said in a statement. “Although it is less common in the United States, oral/pharyngeal cancer is among the ten most common cancers in the world. Our finding strengthens the evidence of a possible protective effect of caffeinated coffee in the etiology and/or progression of cancers of the mouth and pharynx.”

Hildebrand and colleagues examined the coffee drinking habits of 968,000 men and women enrolled in the Cancer Prevention Study II. The study began in 1982 and is overseen by the ACS.

At the start of the study, all participants were cancer free. During the 26-year follow-up, 868 oral or throat cancer deaths occurred. The study relied on self-reports of coffee consumption. They found that more than 97 percent of men and women drank either coffee or tea, with more than 60 percent saying they drank more than one cup of caffeinated coffee per day. And among those who drank regularly, most said they had three cups per day.

The study authors found that the risk reduction for those who drank four-to-six cups per day was nearly 50 percent. For those who drank seven or more cups per day, they said there weren´t enough people to gauge the effect on risk with accuracy. For those who drank more than two cups of decaf daily, the researchers found only a suggestion of a link. And no link was found with tea drinkers.

The researchers also found that even when taking other factors, such as smoking and alcohol use, into consideration, the association between coffee consumption and risk reduction remained true. This was an interesting discovery, since smoking and alcohol use are among the strongest risk factors for oral cancers.

“We really don't clearly know the mechanism” for why coffee reduces the risk of oral and throat cancers, Hildebrand said. “But we do know that coffee contains hundreds of biologically active compounds.”

Many of them, she noted, are now known to have anti-cancer properties.

The team cannot be sure in this study whether coffee actually lowered the risk of cancer or if it improved odds of survival once cancer occurred. The study only looked at cancer deaths, not diagnoses.

While the finding is remarkable, Hildebrand is stopping short of telling people to start drinking coffee or increase the amount they already drink. “Much more epidemiological and scientific and clinical evidence would be needed to support such a recommendation.”

The new findings are “fascinating and remarkable,” Joel Epstein, DMD, director of oral medicine at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center near Los Angeles, said in an interview with WebMD´s Kathleen Doheny.

“It seems like there is a significant theme,” he added, citing several previous studies that found a lower risk of various cancers in coffee drinkers. These were “large studies” funded by reputable organizations such as the ACS.

And for the most part, these previous studies all came up with similar findings, even though the researchers studied different populations and different cancers, noted Epstein. That evidence is encouraging, he added.

Data from the American Cancer Society states that 35,000 new cases of oral cancer are expected in the US this year, with more than 6,800 deaths.