Coffee is frequently described as a “lifesaver” in a joking or informal manner, but a new study finds it just may be a literal lifesaver as well.
Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute just released a new set of research concluding that daily consumption of a “few cups of coffee” is associated with improved health outcomes among metastatic colorectal cancer patients.
More specifically, a regular coffee habit among such individuals was linked to longer survival times and lower odds of cancer spreading further and or worsening.
For reference, colorectal cancer can refer to cancer located within the bladder, colon, or rectum. The term “metastatic,” meanwhile, means that the original cancer tumor has begun to grow and spread to other areas of the body.
These benefits don’t seem to be dependent on caffeine either. Patients drinking decaf coffee on a daily basis also appeared to reap the same coffee-related cancer benefits.
“It’s known that several compounds in coffee have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other properties that may be active against cancer,” says co-first study author Chen Yuan, ScD, in a press release. “Epidemiological studies have found that higher coffee intake was associated with improved survival in patients with stage 3 colon cancer, but the relationship between coffee consumption and survival in patients with metastatic forms of the disease hasn’t been known.”
In total, the research team examined 1,171 metastatic colorectal cancer patients. This analysis led to the conclusion that patients drinking two to three cups of coffee per day were more likely to live longer in general than non-coffee drinking patients. Moreover, it took longer for these patients’ cancers to worsen, in comparison to others who weren’t drinking as much coffee regularly.
Indeed, the more coffee a patient reported drinking, the greater the benefits. For example, those who reported drinking four or more cups of coffee per day fared even better than those drinking two to three cups each day.
The study’s authors stress that their findings do not establish a clear-cut cause and effect relationship between coffee and improved cancer outcomes. They’re not saying that drinking coffee cures, or even directly alleviates colorectal cancer. What this study does confirm, however, is an association between daily coffee consumption and a lower risk of colorectal cancer progression/death.
So, while this topic necessitates more research, as of now the research team does not formally recommend that metastatic colorectal cancer patients start drinking more coffee.
“Although it is premature to recommend a high intake of coffee as a potential treatment for colorectal cancer, our study suggests that drinking coffee is not harmful and may potentially be beneficial,” notes senior study author Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH.
“This study adds to the large body of literature supporting the importance of diet and other modifiable factors in the treatment of patients with colorectal cancer,” she continues. “Further research is needed to determine if there is indeed a causal connection between coffee consumption and improved outcomes in patients with colorectal cancer, and precisely which compounds within coffee are responsible for this benefit.”
This isn’t the first time a research project has noted that coffee may be beneficial for colorectal cancer patients, but it is the first time such associations have been seen in metastatic colorectal cancer patients.
All of the data used for this study was originally collected as part of a larger clinical trial that focused on the effect of two drugs on health outcomes among colorectal cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. At the beginning of that trial, each patient reported their daily coffee consumption habits.
The full study can be found here, published in JAMA Oncology.