Prostate Cancer Risk May Be Reduced by Drinking Coffee, Harvard Study Says

Drinking coffee, regular or decaffeinated, may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, according to a study by Harvard University researchers.

The study found that men who consumed six or more cups of coffee a day had a 60 percent lower risk of developing deadly metastatic prostate cancer and a 20 percent reduced risk of developing any form of the disease. One to three cups cut the risk of lethal prostate cancer by 30 percent. The findings, published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggest non-caffeine elements in coffee may provide the benefit.

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in U.S. men and affects one in six men during their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. Researchers from Harvard’s School of Public Health said they chose to study coffee because research has shown it’s a source of antioxidants, which may be useful in reducing prostate cancer risk.

“What we’re discovering is there are potentially modifiable lifestyle factors that men can do to lower their risk of lethal prostate cancer,” said Lorelei Mucci, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard University School of Public Health in Boston and the study’s senior author, in a May 13 telephone interview. “It doesn’t seem like caffeine is the component of coffee that’s associated with this lower risk.”

Coffee has been linked in studies to a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, liver cancer, cirrhosis and gallstone disease, the authors said. It also contains compounds that can reduce inflammation and regulate insulin.

Men’s Health Study

The researchers looked at the records of 47,911 U.S. men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up study who reported how much coffee they drank every four years from 1986 to 2008. The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, sponsored by Harvard and started in 1986, is designed to evaluate men’s health by relating nutritional factors to serious illness such as cancer and heart disease. Among the 5,035 cases of prostate cancer reported in the study, 642 were cases in which the cancer was fatal or spread beyond the prostate.

Recent studies also suggest coffee may have harmful effects. One by Belgium researchers earlier this month found it may increase the risk of deadly strokes in people with brain aneurysms. A British study last year found an association between the caffeine in coffee and miscarriages and stillbirths later in pregnancy.

“The wrong take-home message is drink more coffee and you won’t get prostate cancer,” said Ian Thompson, director of the Cancer Therapy & Research Center and a professor in the Department of Urology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Similar studies finding links between reduced prostate cancer risk and vitamin E or selenium haven’t panned out, he said.

More Studies Needed

“It’s an interesting observation,” Thompson said in a May 16 interview. “The proper result for this would be for folks in the drug discovery business to look at coffee to see if there may be something drugable.”

The authors said they are planning more studies to understand what in coffee may actually lower the risk of lethal prostate cancer.

Today’s study was funded in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Ostrow in New York at nostrow1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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