Is Coffee The Secret To Beating Colorectal Cancer?

WAGENINGEN, Netherlands — If you’re a coffee lover who has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you may be in luck. A new study from researchers in the Netherlands suggests that regularly drinking coffee could significantly improve your odds of recovery and prevent future tumors.

The study, which tracked over 1,700 patients diagnosed with stages I-III colorectal cancer, found that those who drank more than four cups of coffee per day had a 32-percent lower risk of their cancer recurring compared to those who drank less than two cups per day.

That’s not all. The researchers also discovered a striking link between coffee intake and overall survival rates. The findings, published in the International Journal of Cancer, revealed a U-shaped relationship, where drinking three to five cups per day appeared to be the sweet spot, lowering the risk of death from any cause by a third, with the optimal intake being four cups daily.

To put that into perspective, among every 100 colorectal cancer patients who drank less than two cups, around 68 would typically survive over the 6.6-year follow-up period. At the ideal four-cup level, however, that number jumped to an impressive 86 out of 100 surviving.

💡What To Know About Colorectal Cancer?

  • It’s a form of cancer where cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control.
  • Colorectal polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum) and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms at first. Someone could have polyps or cancer and not know it.
  • It is the 4th most common cancer in U.S. men and women. It is also the 4th leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the CDC.

So, what’s so special about coffee that gives it these potential cancer-fighting powers? The researchers point to coffee’s rich cocktail of plant compounds like antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that may help suppress tumor growth and spread. For example, coffee is loaded with polyphenol antioxidants that could help protect cells from damage by cancer-causing free radicals. It also contains anti-inflammatory substances that may counteract the chronic inflammation, which can fuel cancer progression.

Additionally, compounds in coffee may help kill off cancerous cells directly through pro-apoptotic (cell death-promoting) effects. Some evidence also suggests coffee may help make cancers more susceptible to chemotherapy drugs.

Strong coffee
The researchers point to coffee’s rich cocktail of plant compounds like antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that may help suppress tumor growth and spread. (Photo by New Africa on Shutterstock)

The potential benefits don’t stop there. Coffee may also improve how our body metabolizes sugars by increasing insulin sensitivity. Since many cancers use sugar as their key energy source to grow, this could theoretically starve tumors of their much-needed fuel. Interestingly, coffee’s effects seem to extend beyond just colorectal cancers. Previous research has linked higher coffee intake to reduced risks of other cancer types like liver, breast, and prostate cancer.

While all these findings are incredibly promising, it’s important to note that this was an observational study – which means it can only show an association, not prove that coffee directly caused the reduced cancer recurrence and mortality rates.

It’s possible that coffee drinkers may have had some other factors in common that promoted their enhanced survival, like healthier overall lifestyles or diets. The researchers did try to account for variables like smoking, exercise, and diet, but unmeasured factors could have skewed the results.

There are also limitations to how generalizable the findings may be. The study was conducted in the Netherlands, where coffee preparation techniques and even coffee bean varieties could differ from blends in other countries. It also didn’t distinguish between caffeinated and decaffeinated brews.

However, study authors say the results are certainly compelling enough to warrant further investigation through clinical trials directly testing coffee’s impacts. With colorectal cancer’s rising survival rates, the findings could eventually help shape much-needed dietary guidelines for improving prognoses in colorectal cancer patients.

So, for those battling this disease, increasing your daily coffee mug count to between three and five cups is certainly an easy, affordable, and now scientifically grounded step you could consider alongside your normal treatment plan. Just be sure not to go too overboard – anything beyond that “sweet spot” dosage appeared to diminish coffee’s protective effects in the Dutch study.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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