Men's health * Healthy living

Coffee may cut risk of prostate cancer

coffee Regular drinkers less likely to develop cancer

Regularly drinking coffee reduces a man's risk of developing a deadly type of prostate cancer, a large study suggests.

Men who drank six or more cups a day were 20 per cent less likley to develop any type of prostate cancer, US researchers found.

And men who drank the most coffee were 60 per cent less likely to develop lethal prostate cancer, a type which causes death or has spread to the bones.

Even drinking moderate amounts of coffee - one to three cups - reduced the risk of fatal prostate cancer by 30 per cent, the study found.

Past studies have linked drinking coffee to a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, gallstone disease, and liver cancer or cirrhosis.

Coffee also contains compounds that can act as antioxidants, reduce inflammation, and regulate insulin, all of which may have an influence on prostate cancer.

"Few studies have specifically studied the association of coffee intake and the risk of lethal prostate cancer, the form of the disease that is the most critical to prevent, said Dr Lorelei Mucci, study co-author at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"Our study is the largest to date to examine whether coffee could lower the risk of lethal prostate cancer."

The study involved nearly 48,000 men working in health professions in the US. Every four years from 1986 to 2008, the men reported how much coffee they drunk, on average, each day.

During this time, 5,035 men developed prostate cancer, including 642 fatal cases.

Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee reduced the risk of developing prostate cancer, suggesting that the protective effect seen was not due to caffeine.

The study findings are even more surprising as the researchers reported that the coffee drinkers were more likely to smoke and less likely to exercise, factors which may increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer.

Dr Kathryn Wilson, who led the study, said: "At present we lack an understanding of risk factors that can be changed or controlled to lower the risk of lethal prostate cancer.

"If our findings are validated, coffee could represent one modifiable factor that may lower the risk of developing the most harmful form of prostate cancer."

Each year in the UK, around 37,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and around 10,000 die from the disease.

Dr Helen Rippon, head of research management at the Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "It is important to remember that studying diet is difficult because you are not studying a standardised product – coffee can be prepared in many different ways from many different varieties of bean.

"That is why it is so important that studies like this are repeated by others, to see if the result stands up in other groups of men.

"Although this study is a welcome addition to our knowledge, it is far from definitive and we would not recommend men who are not already habitual coffee drinkers to become so in the hope of preventing prostate cancer."

This article was published on Wed 18 May 2011

Image © Henri Schmit -

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