Coffee Can Prevent Cancer, Says the American Cancer Society

If there’s one thing about work that the coronavirus hasn’t changed it’s that drinking coffee is an inextricable element of most everybody’s workday, at least in the USA.

And that’s a good thing, because the science says that coffee is a super-food. Drinking two to four 8-ounce cups of coffee each day decreases your risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes by 30 percent, Parkinson’s disease by 30 percent, and heart disease by 5 percent. These huge health benefits can have a correspondingly huge financial impact on your company, because a healthy workforce has fewer sick days and is likely to cost less to insure.

Now it appears that coffee’s health benefits may be greater than previously assumed. While a previous meta-analysis of 127 studies showed coffee reduces cancer risk by 20 percent, it wasn’t entirely clear from those original studies what types of cancer were affected. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has now weighed in and the news is incredibly positive. According to the newly-issued Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention

“Studies have suggested that coffee consumption likely reduces the risk of liver and endometrial cancers [and] there is some evidence that coffee reduces the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx as well as basal cell skin cancer in both men and women, and possibly malignant melanoma in women.”

The exact mechanism by which coffee prevents cancer remains something of a mystery because the chemical makeup of roasted coffee is incredibly complex. However, the benefits probably result from coffee’s flavonoids, lignans and other polyphenols, all of which are the some of the most powerful antioxidants known to science. According to the ACS:

“These and other coffee compounds have been shown to increase energy expenditure, inhibit cellular damage, regulate genes involved in DNA repair, have anti-inflammatory properties, and/or inhibit metastasis. Coffee also influences intestinal transit time and liver metabolism of carcinogens, and therefore these factors may also contribute to a lower risk for some digestive cancers.”

The new report also put to rest the idea that the presence of trace amounts of the chemical acrylamide in roasted coffee increases cancer risk. This is important because a California judge ruled two years ago that coffee should contain a warning label on that basis, an action that might cause people to drink less coffee… which actually would result in more cancer cases.

The ACS did, however, note that another meta-analysis of multiple studies confirmed that drinking very hot beverages (i.e. greater than 148 degrees Fahrenheit or 64 degrees Celsius) “may increase the risk of esophageal cancer.” This risk is not specific to coffee, however, and can easily be avoided by letting your coffee cool down for a minute or so before drinking it.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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