Coffee habit improves survival chances with oral cancer

Drinking more than four cups of coffee per day lowers the risk for death from oral/pharyngeal cancer by almost half compared with drinking none, according to US study findings.

"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," said co-author Janet Hildebrand (American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia) in a media release.

Hildebrand and colleagues' findings did not extend to tea drinking, and while a reduction in oral/pharyngeal cancer death was suggested among those who drank two or more cups of decaffeinated coffee per day, the association was less pronounced than for its caffeinated equivalent.

"In addition to caffeine, the polyphenol caffeic acid and 2 coffee-specific diterpenes, cafestol and kahweol, have been studied and found in vitro and in animals to protect against oxidative DNA damage, promote apoptosis, or have antiproliferative activity," write the authors in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The results emerge from data for 968,432 adult participants of the Cancer Prevention Study II, which began in 1982, and who were cancer-free at enrollment. A total of 868 individuals died of oral/pharyngeal cancer during the 26-year study follow up.

Overall, 96.6% of the study cohort reported drinking at least some coffee or tea. The average amount of caffeinated coffee consumed per day among those who drank it was 3 cups (where a cup measures 237 ml), and individuals who drank more than 4 cups per day were much more likely to be current or recent smokers, and heavy alcohol users.

In light of this association, Hildebrand and co-workers adjusted their analysis for smoking and alcohol use.

Participants who reported drinking more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 42% lower risk for death from oral/pharyngeal cancer compared with those who drank no coffee or who drank tea, and those who drank decaffeinated coffee and tea in addition to coffee had a 55% lower risk for death from the disease compared with those who drank none.

Drinking more than 2 cups of decaffeinated coffee also reduced the risk for death from oral/pharyngeal cancer, but by a marginally significant 39%.

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