How Coffee Could Help Colon Cancer Patients

Coffee may decrease colon cancer recurrence risk

For many, a morning cuppa is a daily ritual. For colon cancer survivors, it could be a lifesaver.

A recent study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that colon cancer patients were less likely to have their cancer recur (come back) after treatment if they regularly drank caffeinated coffee.

"We found that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of the cancer coming back and a significantly greater survival and chance of a cure," said lead author Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber, in a press release.

Dr. Fuchs and colleagues studied nearly 1,000 patients who had surgery and chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer.

Stage III is an advanced form of the disease. Patients with stage III have about a 35 percent chance of recurrence, according to Dr. Fuchs.

These patients completed dietary surveys early in this study, during chemotherapy and about one year later. Having patients complete the surveys at these intervals made them more accurate than if patients recalled their dietary habits later, these researchers noted.

Patients who drank 4 or more cups of coffee each day were the least likely to have their colon cancer recur, Dr. Fuchs and team found. These patients were 43 percent less likely to have their cancer recur than those who didn't drink coffee. They were also 33 percent less likely to die from any cause.

People who drank 2 or 3 cups a day showed some benefit — but not as much as those who drank more coffee. Those who drank 1 cup of coffee or less had no benefits.

Dr. Fuchs and team theorized that caffeine may affect hormonal processes that decrease inflammation, which is tied to cancer.

Although other studies have suggested that coffee may protect against cancer recurrence, Dr. Fuchs said these results are still preliminary.

"If you are a coffee drinker and are being treated for colon cancer, don't stop," Dr. Fuchs said. "But if you're not a coffee drinker and wondering whether to start, you should first discuss it with your physician."

This study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and Pharmacia & Upjohn Company, now Pfizer Oncology, which makes medicines to treat cancer. Dr. Fuchs and study author Dr. Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt received grant support from the National Cancer Institute.