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Coffee may fight endometrial cancer

22nd November 2011

Women who drink a lot of coffee seem to have a significantly lower risk of endometrial cancer, according to a recent US study.

Coffee

The researchers found that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day reduced women's risk of getting cancer of the endometrium, by about a quarter.

The researchers could not find the same statistical link in women who did not drink much coffee, however.

They also could not find the same type of link in women who only drank tea, although the researchers were able to make a tentative link between the decreased risk and decaffeinated coffee.

Study co-author Edward Giovannucci, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US, said that the observation had been suggested previously, and that there was now strong reason to believe that the association between endometrial cancer risk and coffee intake was real.

He said one explanation for the association was that women with higher levels of hormones such as oestrogen and insulin had a higher risk for such cancers, and that drinking coffee reduced those hormones in people.

Other studies from Sweden and Japan have highlighted the idea that coffee blocks the development of tumours by altering hormone levels.

However, the researchers said that people should not start indiscriminately raising their levels of coffee consumption, if that meant they would also consume more sugar and saturated dairy fat.

Giovannucci said that women with diabetes faced a much higher risk of endometrial cancer, and that coffee consumption had also been shown to lower people's diabetes risk.

He said he believed the risk reduction was probably not related to caffeine, since the drink had a fairly complex composition, with one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of any beverage.

For the study, the research team focused on nearly 700 cases of endometrial cancer among 67,500 study subjects.

All of the study subjects were between the ages of 30 and 55, and all had taken part in a health survey that tracked people over intervals of two and four years, for just under three decades.

Coffee was associated with reducing women's endometrial cancer risk by a quarter.

Janice Dutcher, director of immunotherapy at St Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Centre and Beth Israel Medical Centre in New York, said she was sceptical about the study result, since coffee had once been thought to cause cancer.

She said that she was certain the researchers had used sound methodology, but that she would be very careful about drawing any conclusions based on the research.


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