A Harvard Medical School study has revealed that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of lethal and advanced prostate cancers.
While it is too early for physicians to start advising male patients to take up the habit of regular coffee drinking, data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference showed a strong inverse association between coffee consumption and the risk of prostate cancers.
“Coffee has effects on insulin and glucose metabolism as well as sex hormone levels, all of which play a role in prostate cancer. It was plausible that there may be an association between coffee and prostate cancer,” said Kathryn M. Wilson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Dr. Wilson and colleagues found that men who drank the most coffee had a 60 per cent lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer than men who did not drink any coffee. This is the first study of its kind to look at both overall risk of prostate cancer and risk of localised, advanced and lethal disease.
“Few studies have looked prospectively at this association, and none have looked at coffee and specific prostate cancer outcomes,” said Dr. Wilson. “We specifically looked at different types of prostate cancer, such as advanced versus localised cancers or high-grade versus low-grade cancers.”
Caffeine is actually not the key factor in this association, according to Dr. Wilson. The researchers are unsure which components of the beverage are most important, as coffee contains many biologically active compounds like antioxidants and minerals.
The researchers documented the regular and decaffeinated coffee intake of nearly 50,000 men every four years from 1986 to 2006; 4,975 of these men developed prostate cancer over that time.
They also examined the cross-sectional association between coffee consumption and levels of circulating hormones in blood samples collected from a subset of men in the cohort.
“Very few lifestyle factors have been consistently associated with prostate cancer risk, especially with risk of aggressive disease, so it would be very exciting if this association is confirmed in other studies,” said Dr. Wilson. “Our results do suggest there is no reason to stop drinking coffee out of any concern about prostate cancer.”
This association might also help understand the biology of prostate cancer and possible chemoprevention measures.