Coffee and Cancer

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

APRIL 17, 2018

  Here we go again. Or, what goes around, comes around. At least three times during my years as an oncology social worker, there has been potentially alarming news about coffee and cancer risk. Each time, there has shortly thereafter been more news that discredits the earlier studies. This seems to be happening again. Nearly two thirds of Americans drink coffee daily. As an aside: I am just back from a trip to the UK and Ireland. Especially in Dublin, the numbers of coffee shops were astonishing. Not was there one on every block, there were multiple coffee shops on almost every block. There were some chains that were familiar to me (e.g. Starbucks) and some that were not (e.g. Insomnia) as well as plenty of independent places. And there were lines in many of them, and it seemed that at least half of the people on the street were carrying cups of coffee.

  Before I share this new study, let me remind you that there are plenty of other studies that suggest that coffee carries some health value. I have a friend who is a famous liver doctor, and he insists that he has never seen a patient with liver disease who is a big coffee drinker. His advice is to drink multiple cups a day. So, it clearly depends on what you are worrying about and how you want to spend your beverage dollars.

  The International Agency for for research on cancer released a statement saying that coffee probably causes cancer. Then a federal judge in California issued an order that Starbucks and other brewers must post signs warning of a potential cancer risk. The concern is a chemical in coffee, Acrylamide. Other experts have come out with the opposite opinion, stating that coffee has some proven health benefits and that there is no evidence of a link to cancer. Stay tuned.

  From WebMD: 

Don’t Ditch the Coffee Over Cancer Risk News

By Matt McMillen

Last summer, Giovannucci and colleagues published an “umbrella” review of coffee research. They evaluated and summarized the results from 127 previously published reviews on coffee’s links to 62 different health concerns, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Coffee drinkers, the study found, had significantly lower odds of having several cancers, including liver, prostate, and colon cancers. The risk of diabetes and Parkinson’s was 30% lower among coffee drinkers, and the risk of chronic liver disease was 65% lower. Death from heart disease and from heart attack also dropped for coffee drinkers. For many diseases, the more coffee you drink -- up to about four to five cups per day -- the more potential benefits.

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