Coffee may offer womb cancer protection, say Harvard researchers

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Endometrial cancer, Epidemiology

Coffee may offer womb cancer protection, say Harvard researchers
Long-term coffee consumption may be associated with up to a 25% reduced risk of womb (endometrial) cancer, according to new research.

The study – published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention​ – reports that consumption of more than four cups of coffee per day is linked with a 25% reduced risk of developing endometrial cancer. Drinking between two and three cups per day was associated with a 7% reduction in risk, said the researchers, led by Professor Edward Giovannucci of the Harvard School of Public Health, USA.

Giovannucci, explained that coffee is emerging as a protective agent in cancers that are linked to obesity, estrogen and insulin.

"Coffee has already been shown to be protective against diabetes due to its effect on insulin," ​he said, noting that his team believed such benefits may also be true of certain cancers that are linked to insulin.

“Drinking of coffee, given its widespread consumption, might be an additional strategy to reduce endometrial cancer risk,”​ said the researchers. However they noted that the addition of substantial sugar and cream to coffee “could offset any potential benefit.”

Study details

The research team investigated the association between cumulative coffee intake and endometrial cancer risk in a population of 67,470 women who enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study. During the course of 26 years of follow-up, the team documented 672 cases of endometrial cancer.

The team reported that consumption of fewer than four cups of coffee per day was not associated with endometrial cancer risk.

“However, women who consumed four or more cups of coffee had 25% lower risk of endometrial cancer than those who consumed less than one cup per day,”​ they said.

A similar association was found for decaffeinated coffee, said the research team, who found that drinking more than two cups per day was linked with a 22% reduced risk for endometrial cancer. They added that tea consumption was not associated with endometrial cancer risk.

Giovannucci said he hopes this study will lead to further inquiries about the effect of coffee on cancer – noting that further research is needed because this and similar studies reporting benefits from coffee consumption use methodology where coffee intake is self-selected and not randomised.

Source: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-11-0766
“A Prospective Cohort Study of Coffee Consumption and Risk of Endometrial Cancer over a 26-Year Follow-Up”
Authors : Y. Je, S.E. Hankinson, S.S. Tworoger, I. DeVivo, E. Giovannucci

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