Link found between coffee, cancer prevention

December 8, 2009 3:26:44 PM PST
Harvard researchers are finding an intriguing link between coffee and the prevention of an aggressive type of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer kills 27,000 men annually. So this research comparing the history of thousands and thousands of men raises the possibility of a simple and effective prevention in this deadly disease.

The researchers discovered that men who drank six or more cups of coffee a day had a 60 percent lower risk developing the advanced form of the disease when compared to men who drank no coffee at all.

Even men who drank just one to three cups are showed a lower risk, about 20 percent, of developing the aggressive cancer.

Prostate cancer specialist Dr. Ihor Sawczuk, of Hackensack University Medical Center, says the researchers were not exactly sure what it is about the coffee that might affect the cancers. But he says it's too early to recommend boosting coffee drinking to men, although one cup of coffee might be helpful.

"I think those that don't drink coffee should consider perhaps a cup a day may help build up their immune system," he said. "I think what we need to remember is there may be more to this story."

And finding out more details will be the next job for researchers. Because one study is not enough for scientists, the findings will need to be confirmed.

But if coffee helps prevention, it's a bonus for those who already drink it and a simple benefit for those who don't.

Prostate cancer survivor Richard Williamson has made some already-proven lifestyle changes for his recovery. He's lost 25 pounds, walks two miles daily and, because he doesn't eat enough fruits and vegetables, now frequents a health food store near his home to get his vegetables in a drink he likes.

"I do my walk and then I stop there," he said. "I do that three or four times a week."

Other proven prevention habits include:

"Decrease the total amount of fat, taking good fat, for example, the omega-3," Dr. Sawczuk said. "Tomatoes have lycopene, especially the skin of tomatoes. These are good substancse to ingest. Soy products, apples, perhaps even a glass of red wine."

And now, maybe a cup of coffee or two. One way coffee might be working is that it's known to help the body use insulin. And high insulin has already been proven to increase risk of prostate cancer.