Coffee Drinking Linked With Lower Oral Cancer Death Risk: Study

As if there weren't already a host of other reasons to love coffee, a new study links drinking several cups a day with a decreased risk of dying from oral cancer.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, shows an association between drinking more than four cups of coffee a day and a halved risk of dying from oral and pharyngeal cancers. However, it's important to note that researchers only found an association, and more work is needed to figure out what exactly might be at the root of the finding.

"Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, and contains a variety of antioxidants, polyphenols, and other biologically active compounds that may help to protect against development or progression of cancers," study researcher Janet Hildebrand, MPH, said in a statement. "Although it is less common in the United States, oral/pharyngeal cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in the world. Our finding strengthens the evidence of a possible protective effect of caffeinated coffee in the etiology and/or progression of cancers of the mouth and pharynx."

The study is based on 968,432 people who were part of the Cancer Prevention Study II, who were followed for 26 years. No one had cancer at the start of the study, but by the end of the study, 868 people had died from oral/pharyngeal cancers.

Researchers found a link between drinking more caffeinated coffee and having less of a risk of dying from the cancer -- specifically, people who drank more than four cups a day had a 49 percent decreased death risk from this cause, compared with people who didn't drink coffee.

And people didn't have to regularly drink four or more cups a day to experience the decrease, as they found the risk gradually shrunk with each cup.

While a slight association was also found with decaffeinated coffee, it was not as strong as with the caffeinated coffee, the researchers noted. No association was found between tea drinking and oral cancer death risk.

Similarly, a 2010 review of studies in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention showed a 39 percent lower risk of oral and throat cancer among people who drink four or more cups of coffee daily, WebMD reported. That review, conducted by University of Milan researchers, compared coffee-drinking rates between 5,139 people with head/neck cancer and 9,028 cancer-free people.

For more healthy reasons to drink coffee, click through the slideshow:

Coffee Health Benefits