A recent study has found that four or more cups of coffee a day could be the key to staving off relapse for colon cancer patients.
Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center conducted a study on just under 1,000 stage III colon cancer patients to observe the effects of coffee consumption and other dietary factors on their health.
What researchers discovered, is that of patients who were known coffee consumers, those who drank four or more cups of coffee daily were 42 percent less likely to experience a relapse than non-coffee drinkers. Those who drank two to three cups of coffee per day still reaped some benefits from their cups of joe, but not to the same degree as those who consumed more. Patients who drank a single daily cup saw no benefits from the beverage.
“If you’re a coffee drinker and are being treated for colon cancer, don’t stop,” said Charles Fuchs, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber.
“These patients were 42 percent less likely to have their cancer return than non-coffee drinkers, and were 33 percent less likely to die from cancer or any other cause,” said Fuchs.
The study, published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, observed the effects of 130 foods and beverages on the health of stage III colon cancer patients who were receiving treatment for the disease.
And while the results of the study are promising, researchers aren’t exactly sure how coffee consumption benefited the coffee-drinking patients, or why the study yielded such results.
They speculate that it may not be the coffee itself that wards off a colon cancer relapse, but rather the caffeine that it contains that does the trick. The caffeine may increase insulin sensitivity, causing the body to need less insulin to function properly, and by doing so, may decrease inflammation which may result in the reduced recurrence.
“I do think it would be reasonable to conclude that it could be the caffeine in coffee that is affecting the colon cancer pathway,” said Fuchs. “It’s just that for now we can’t say for sure. We need to confirm these findings in other patient populations.”
And four or more cups of coffee may not be the answer for every colon cancer patient, particularly those who don’t normally drink coffee.
“Yes, this was a carefully done study that does suggest that coffee certainly isn’t harmful and there’s certainly some value for patients. But I’m not sure that the apparent benefit of coffee is clear enough yet to warrant any clinical recommendations. That will require additional research to establish causality,” said Dr. Andrew Chan, an associate professor in the department of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and an associate professor of medicine at the department of gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, in an interview.
So while four or more cups of coffee have been shown beneficial for stage III colon cancer patients who were already coffee drinkers, the researchers recommend that colon cancer patients who are not regular consumers of coffee, consult with their physician before picking up the habit.