Coffee may prevent colon cancer relapse

Delthia Ricks

Daily consumption of caffeinated coffee may prevent a recurrence of colon cancer in people treated for the disease with the strongest benefits for those drinking at least four cups, according to new scientific research.

The new findings come with caveats — and for some doctors, raise a long list of questions.

Pending further research, scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who conducted the study, said people should not begin drinking coffee if they aren't already java drinkers. Those who drink it should not increase their number of daily cups, the scientists said.

The study is the first ever to examine whether coffee plays a role in preventing colon cancer recurrence and lowers mortality from the disease among U.S. residents — who consume the most coffee globally.

Dr. Jules Garbus, co-chief of colon and rectal surgery at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., said the research cannot be easily dismissed because it raises questions about how coffee affects metabolism.

The study's lead investigator, Dr. Charles Fuchs, said it was unclear why coffee didn't prevent the patients' cancers in the first place.

Fuchs, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber, said people with metabolic disorders have a higher colon cancer risk.

For example, high levels of insulin are associated with elevated risks of the cancer because the hormone can promote the growth of cancer cells. Obesity also is associated with higher colon cancer risk and higher levels of insulin in the blood.

Caffeine helps lower insulin levels and is associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, Fuchs wrote in the study.

Nearly 1,000 patients were involved in the research. All had been treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Those who had the best five-year survival rates drank at least four cups of caffeinated coffee daily, consuming about 460 milligrams of caffeine.

Results of the analysis were reported in Monday's Journal of Clinical Oncology.