Harvard Health Letter

Harvard researchers link coffee with reduced colon cancer recurrence

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You may drink coffee because it tastes good or helps you wake up. But the popular brew is also associated with health benefits, such as reducing the risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Now a study from Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute published Aug. 17, 2015, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that regular consumption of caffeinated coffee may be associated with a reduced recurrence of colon cancer, and even a reduced risk of death. The study included nearly 1,000 people with stage 3 colon cancer. They filled out questionnaires about their dietary patterns during chemotherapy, and then again six months after treatment was completed. People who drank four or more cups of coffee per day were 42% less likely to have cancer return than non-coffee drinkers, and were 34% less likely to die from cancer or any other cause.

This type of study doesn't prove that coffee drinking caused the lower chance of cancer recurrence and death. A randomized trial is needed to show cause and effect. But researchers are encouraged by the results. "Regular coffee intake has been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and it may be that through a similar mechanism, coffee may also improve outcomes for people with advanced colon cancer," says Dr. Charles Fuchs, senior author on the paper.