Good Buzz: Coffee Helps Protect Against Endometrial Cancer

Date: March 4, 2012      Publication: HealthyWoman from Bottom Line      Source: Youjin  Je      Print:

Java lovers, rejoice—new research reveals yet another potential health perk from drinking coffee. We already have evidence that coffee can reduce the risk for diabetes, stroke and Parkinson’s disease, and perhaps for Alzheimer’s, depression and basal cell skin cancer, too. And now it appears that coffee also reduces a woman’s odds of getting cancer of the endometrium (uterine lining), the most common gynecologic cancer in the US.

What we all want to know: How much joe would we need to drink to help guard against endometrial cancer? To get the answer, Harvard researchers analyzed data from 16 studies involving a total of 369,004 women (including 6,628 endometrial cancer patients) who were followed for up to 26 years.

Findings: Women who drank the most coffee—an average of three to four cups daily—were 29% less likely to get endometrial cancer than women who drank little or no coffee. Overall, each eight-ounce cup of coffee consumed per day reduced a woman’s endometrial cancer risk by 8%. (These stats were for women who drank regular coffee or regular as well as decaf…there was not enough data on decaf alone to draw firm conclusions about its effects on endometrial cancer risk.)

Drink think: Coffee is an excellent source of chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant that helps prevent the damage to cells’ DNA that triggers the cancer process. Also, caffeine and/or other bioactive compounds in coffee may have favorable effects on hormones, including estrogen and insulin, thus inhibiting cancer cell growth. Downside: For some people, excess caffeine can cause irritability, anxiety, restlessness, headaches, sleep problems and/or abnormal heart rhythms.

Is black best? This study did not specifically assess the effects of drinking coffee black versus adding cream and/or sugar. But reseachers cautioned that consuming lots of cream or sugar could contribute to insulin resistance and excess weight gain—both of which can increase endometrial cancer risk. Bottom line: Go ahead and enjoy your java (provided the caffeine doesn’t bother you), but don’t go too light or too sweet.

Source: Youjin Je, ScD, is a nutrition researcher in the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and leader of a meta-analysis on coffee and endometrial cancer risk published in International Journal of Cancer.