If you're one of the 93,000 men and women who were diagnosed with colon cancer this year, keep those coffee refills coming.
A breakthrough study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute reported this week that regularly consuming four or more cups of caffeinated coffee can help prevent colon cancer recurrence and also reduce the likelihood dying from the cancer. This is the first large study of its kind to find such a significant connection between our favorite morning beverage and colon cancer recovery.
"We found that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of the cancer coming back and a significantly greater survival and chance of a cure," lead researcher Charles Fuchs, who is also the director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber, said in a statement.
For the study, the research team recruited nearly 1,000 patients who were all diagnosed with stage III colon cancer, and were treated with both surgery and chemotherapy. They filled out a dietary pattern questionnaire at the beginning of the study, during their chemotherapy treatment, and a year afterward. Through the survey, the research team tracked caffeinated coffee consumption specifically.
The patients who consumed about 460 milligrams of caffeine a day (about four cups of coffee) were 42 percent less likely to see their cancer return after remission, and 33 percent less likely to die from cancer in general. Those who drank two to three cups saw some improvement, and others who downed one cup or less a day experienced little benefit.
Fuchs explained that most colon cancer relapses occur within five years of treatment, and those with stage III located in the lymph nodes have about 35 percent chance of relapse.
The research team decided to hone in on coffee consumption specifically because previous studies have also linked it to the potential reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, which symptoms (like obesity, lack of exercise, a high-calorie and high-diet, and high insulin levels) are also relevant in a colon cancer diagnosis.
"If you are a coffee drinker and are being treated for colon cancer, don't stop," Fuchs said in a statement. "But if you're not a coffee drinker and wondering whether to start, you should first discuss it with your physician."
While further research is necessary before doctors will begin recommend drinking caffeinated coffee as a part of a colon cancer treatment plan, this finding is surely a step in the right direction. Previous research has found that Americans consume most of their antioxidants from coffee, and are able to absorb more of them via the beverage. It is also a known stress reducer, mood elevator, and brain booster. It can even protect your liver and skin. So keep brewing your way to better health!