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Drinking coffee may reduce death from oral/pharyngeal cancer, according to an ACS study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.1 The findings showed that people who drank more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day were about half as likely to die from oral/pharyngeal cancer as people who drank coffee only occasionally or not at all.

Researchers analyzed tea and coffee consumption among people enrolled in the Cancer Prevention Study II, a prospective US cohort study started in 1982 by the ACS. Of the 968,432 men and women who were cancer-free at enrollment, 868 died from oral/pharyngeal cancer during the 26 years of follow-up.

Study participants who drank 4 cups of coffee a day experienced a 49% lower risk of oral/pharyngeal cancer death compared with those who drank no coffee or only an occasional cup. No major link with lower risk was found for decaffeinated coffee, nor for tea.

Previous studies have suggested this link. One reason may be that coffee contains antioxidants, polyphenols, and other compounds that may help protect against the development of cancer.

Lead author Janet Hildebrand, MPH, of the ACS epidemiology research program, says researchers do not recommend that people drink 4 cups of coffee a day. Although it may be good news for coffee drinkers, more consistent research is needed to demonstrate whether coffee can help with cancer prevention. She and colleagues plan to study the impact of coffee consumption on a more diverse population in the Cancer Prevention Study-3. That study will enroll at least 300,000 people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds across the country.

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  • 1
    Hildebrand JS, Patel AV, McCullough ML, et al. Coffee, tea, and fatal oral/ pharyngeal cancer in a large prospective US cohort.. Am J Epidemiol. 2013; 177: 5058.