Drinking coffee may improve colon cancer survival

BOSTON — Stage III colon cancer patients who drank coffee were nearly half as likely to have their cancer return and saw their chances of dying from any cancer slashed by about a third, according to a new study.

Researchers found that it was the caffeine in coffee, not the components of coffee itself, that lowered the risk for cancer to come back.

Previous studies have shown the benefits of drinking coffee, including positive effects to prevent or lower the severity of diabetes to suspected protective benefits against breast cancer, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.

“If you are a coffee drinker and are being treated for colon cancer, don’t stop,” said Dr. Charles Fuchs, director of the gastrointestinal cancer center at the Dana Farber Cancer Center, in a press release. “But if you’re not a coffee drinker and wondering whether to start, you should first discuss it with your physician.”

Researchers reviewed surveys of 1000 people with stage III colon cancer, finding those who drank four or more cups of coffee per day — consuming about 460 milligrams of caffeine — were 42 percent less likely to have their cancer come back. They also were 34 percent less likely to die from cancer or anything else.

While there were positive effects from two or three cups per day as well, but onw cup of coffee had little or no effect. Decaffeinated coffee and herbal tea also did not confer the benefits of multiple cups of coffee.

Fuchs said the benefits of caffeine against cancer may be similar to its effects on diabetes. Coffee increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which helps to lower inflammation — not only a cause of diabetes, but also thought to increase the risk of developing cancer.

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