Drinking four or more cups of coffee per day has been linked with increased survival rates of colon cancer sufferers, with regular consumption resulting in a 42% drop in the disease returning. A team of scientists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston also found regular coffee drinkers were 33% less likely to die from colon cancer than those who did not drink coffee.
The scientists included almost 1,000 patients who were asked to fill out dietary pattern questionnaires at the start of the study, during chemotherapy, then again a year later. Their findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, showed that people who drink four or more cups of coffee per day had a better outcome than those who drank less. Two to three cups per day was found to have modest benefits, while drinking one cup or less appeared to show little benefit.
Study leader Charles Fuchs said: "We found that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of the cancer coming back and a significantly greater survival and chance of a cure." However, he said he was hesitant to espouse the benefits of coffee consumption until further studies are carried out to confirm the findings.
"If you are a coffee drinker and are being treated for colon cancer, don't stop," he said. "But if you're not a coffee drinker and wondering whether to start, you should first discuss it with your physician."
Further analysis of the results showed the lowered risk of colon cancer returning and death was a result of caffeine rather than any other components of the coffee. Fuchs said they focused their research on coffee consumption because as well appearing to have protective benefits against other types of cancers, it also has been found to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Risk factors for both diabetes and colon cancer include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and a diet high in calories and sugar.
How and why caffeine has this effect is not known, but it has been suggested it increases the body's sensitivity to insulin so less of it is needed, meaning inflammation could be reduced (a risk factor in cancer and diabetes).