Coffee and Your Cancer Risk


Recent headlines have brought coffee back into the health spotlight. So, what are the real health benefits and risks of this delicious beverage? We break down the latest research on coffee and cancer and why it’s making news again.

The Research

Coffee contains a variety of compounds that, in lab studies, can block carcinogens, reduce cancer cell growth and promote cancer cell death. This matters because if these effects hold true in humans, even a small benefit from coffee could significantly impact Americans’ health with over 60% of U.S. adults drinking coffee daily, according to a National Coffee Association survey.

In epidemiological studies, individuals who drank coffee had lower risk of a number of cancers. Our latest review of the evidence concluded that drinking coffee probably reduces risk for endometrial and liver cancer. 

Some studies have also suggested that coffee may decrease risk of other cancers, such as prostate, oral and colon, though more research is required to determine if these are cause and effect associations. In addition, several large studies have found that coffee drinkers live longer than non-coffee drinkers and have a lower risk of dying from any chronic disease.

The Headlines

Recently, a Los Angeles County Superior Judge has ruled that all coffee shops and sellers in the state of California must label their product and warn their consumers about potential cancer risk from drinking coffee.  

The justification is that acrylamide, which is found in roasted coffee beans, has been linked to cancer in rats. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), acrylamide is found in many food items including french fries, potato chips, bread, corn, breakfast cereals, poultry and fish. Although acrylamide increases cancer risk for lab animals at higher doses, the studies that have measured levels of acrylamide in the blood in humans, including in high coffee consumers, have shown no hint of increased cancer risk.

The Takeaway

There are hundreds of epidemiological studies on coffee and cancer and essentially none suggest increased cancer risk. Coffee and smoking should not have similar warning labels. Those who like drinking coffee should have no concerns. 

It’s important to remember, though, that coffee with lots of added sugar, syrups and fat turns a no-calorie beverage into a dessert. AICR’s research shows that sugary beverages lead to overweight and obesity, which in turn increases risk for 11 types of cancer. Avoid calorie-loaded lattes and blended coffee drinks and be skimpy with additions like cream and sugar. Get more tips on preparing the perfect cup coffee and learn about the research at AICR’s Foods that Fight Cancer.

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