New study suggests coffee consumption to decreased risk of colorectal cancer; more research needed to recommend coffee drinking as a preventive measure



Worldwide, Colo-rectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in men and the second most common in women. The ICMR task group on colorectal cancer reported that in India, the annual incidence rates (AARs) for colon cancer and rectal cancer in men are 4.4 and 4.1 per 100,000, respectively. The AAR for colon cancer in women is 3.9 per 100,000.

In India, colon cancer ranks 8th and rectal cancer ranks 9th among men. For women, rectal cancer does not figure in the top 10 cancers, whereas colon cancer ranks 9th.

Connoisseurs of coffee may be thrilled to hear this: A new case-control study published in the April 1, 2016 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association of Cancer Research by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center of Keck Medicine of USC revealed that coffee consumption decreases the risk of Colo-rectal cancer. It is immaterial whether the coffee you drink is black, decaffeinated, half-caffeinated or even instant!

“Coffee contains several bio-active compounds relevant to colon physiology. Although coffee intake is a proposed protective factor for Colo-rectal cancer, currently the evidence remains inconclusive.”  It is with this background that researchers examined over 5,145 men and women who had been diagnosed with Colo-rectal cancer within the past six months, along with an additional 4,097 men and women with no history of Colo-rectal cancer to serve as a control group.

Researchers collected data on the daily consumption of boiled (espresso), instant, decaffeinated and filtered coffee, as well as their total consumption of other liquids. The questionnaire also included queries about other factors that influence the risk of colorectal cancer, including family history of cancer, diet, physical activity and smoking.

According to Dr Stephen Gruber, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior author of the study, the more coffee the subjects consumed. the lower the risk. Even moderate drinking (between one to two servings a day) was associated with a 26 percent reduction in the odds of developing Colo-rectal cancer after adjusting for known risk factors.

The risk of developing Colo-rectal cancer continued to decrease to up to 50 percent when participants drank more than 2.5 servings of coffee each day. Decreased risk indication ran across all types of coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated.

Surprisingly, the caffeine content did not seem to matter. May be the protective properties of coffee do not depend on caffeine alone. Coffee contains many elements such as Caffeine, polyphenol, Melanoidins and Diterpenes.

“Caffeine and polyphenol can act as antioxidants, limiting the growth of potential colon cancer cells. Melanoidins generated during the roasting process have been hypothesized to encourage colon mobility. Diterpenes may prevent cancer by enhancing the body’s defense against oxidative damage.”(EurekAlert  April 1, 2016)

“The levels of beneficial compounds per serving of coffee vary depending on the bean, roast and brewing method,” said first author Dr.Stephanie Schmit,

“The good news is that our data presents a decreased risk of colorectal cancer regardless of what flavor or form of coffee you prefer.” ( EurekAlert April  1, 2016)

A research team led by Gad Rennert, MD, PhD, director of the Clalit National Israeli Cancer Control Center in Haifa, Israel, conducted the extensive study together with investigators at USC Norris. One advantage of this large, population-based study is that the results are representative of many coffee-drinking populations.

“Although coffee consumption in Israel is less common and with more type-variability than in the United States, our results indicate similarities in risk reduction with use consumption of various types of coffee,” Rennert said.

“While the evidence certainly suggests this to be the case, we need additional research before advocating for coffee consumption as a preventive measure,” Gruber added with characteristic humility. That being said, there are few health risks to coffee consumption; I would encourage coffee lovers to revel in the strong possibility that their daily mug may lower their risk of Colo-rectal cancer.”(EurekAlert, April, 1)

A meta-analysis of coffee consumption and risk of Colo-rectal published in American Journal of Epidemiology in 1998 gave inconsistent results. The combined results from 12 case-control studies showed an inverse association between coffee consumption and risk of Colo-rectal cancer; the findings were similar in population-based and hospital-based case-control studies. Five cohort studies did not support an association. Even the present study does not lead to a final decision. In the meanwhile, no harm in continuing to drink the favourite cup!




About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
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