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Does Coffee Lower Your Risk Of Cancer? What Science Says

a white ceramic cup with coffee

Most people around the world, including Americans, enjoy at least one cup of coffee a day. Reasons for drinking coffee include an increased feeling of alertness, a greater capacity for concentration, and an improved sense of feeling awake, especially first thing in the morning. There are many other benefits, including a range of health benefits, that can be had from drinking a reasonable amount of coffee each day, as studies suggest that moderate coffee drinkers can see a lower risk of prostate, liver, endometrial, and mouth and throat cancers.

However, there are some caveats – the studies suggest that people need to drink between 4 and 6 cups a day to get these benefits, while the inclusion of sugar, milk, cream, syrup, and other additives, may cause other ill effects.

Read on to find out whether drinking a cup of coffee will lower the risk of cancer, how much you need to consume to get the benefits, and whether there is anything you should avoid.

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Cancer Risks And Coffee

For years, it was claimed that coffee can increase the chances of contracting certain types of cancer. However, the headlines were based primarily on a single study with limited subjects. More recent studies, and meta-analysis of multiple studies involving many thousands of participants, have shown that coffee consumption does not increase the likelihood of cancer.

woman drinking coffee
Image Credit: Chait Goli, Pexels

Does Coffee Prevent Cancer?

In fact, rather than causing cancer or increasing the likelihood of developing cancer, studies suggest the opposite may be true and that moderate consumption of coffee each day could actually reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

Original concerns that coffee may be carcinogenic were based on studies that showed a link to bladder cancer. These studies did not take into account other prevailing factors, including whether participants smoked or were subject to other known cancer risks. More recent and more comprehensive studies have discredited this link and shown that there is no additional risk of bladder cancer from drinking coffee.

Furthermore, there have been many more studies conducted since then. These studies have looked at the emergence of different cancers in those who do and do not consume coffee. They considered additional risk factors. Meta-analysis of studies shows that not only is there no clear link between coffee and cancer, but that coffee can reduce the likelihood of developing liver cancer or womb cancer. Other studies have also linked coffee to reduced instances of prostate, mouth, and lung cancer, but these studies are more limited and further evidence is needed.

How Does Coffee Reduce Cancer Risks?

The exact reason that coffee seemingly reduces the risk of cancer are unclear. Scientists have posited that chemicals in coffee may prevent chronic inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity. It has also been suggested that coffee could prevent tumor growth while preventing damage to DNA. The chemicals in coffee may even kill cancer cells before they form into tumors.

a hand of a woman holding a cup of coffee
Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay

Coffee Accompaniments

It is worth noting that very few of the studies look at the type of coffee, how it is brewed, or even the accompaniments that are included with a cup of coffee, for example whether a person drinks their coffee with milk or cream, and whether they have sugar or flavorings. There are some people who believe that dairy milk can increase the risk of certain cancers, as well as those that believe certain sweeteners have the same effect, but these claims require further investigation, in the same way as coffee does.

How Much Coffee?

Study results differ in the amount of coffee that is considered optimal. Health bodies state that 400mg is the maximum recommended daily amount of caffeine, and this is equivalent to approximately four cups of coffee per day. But it is likely to be the antioxidants and other compounds in the coffee that offer health benefits, rather than the caffeine. Some studies state that one cup of coffee per day is beneficial, others say two, especially to help prevent cancer of the womb, and some even say that a person needs to drink between three and four cups a day to get the most benefit.

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Although there are studies that suggest drinking coffee might reduce the risk of contracting certain cancers, the benefits look to be slight, which means that starting drinking coffee as a means of reducing the chance of developing cancer is not necessarily advisable. However, if you already drink coffee and are a light to moderate drinker, then you may be enjoying some slight benefit from the antioxidants and other chemical compounds present in your favorite coffee drink. It is unclear whether the inclusion of milk or sugar makes any difference to these figures, but you should consider the calories that you are consuming when adding these to your drinks.

Featured Image Credit: Beyza Efe, Pexels


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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