Daily consumption of caffeinated coffee may prevent the return of colon cancer after treatment, research from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has shown. Additionally, it may also improve chances of successful treatment.
Patients in the study, all of whom were treated with surgery and chemotherapy for stage III colon cancer, had the greatest benefit from consuming four or more cups of coffee a day (about 460 milligrams of caffeine). These patients were 42 percent less likely to have their cancer return than non-coffee drinkers, and were 33 percent less likely to die from cancer or any other cause.
A more modest benefit was seen from two to three cups of coffee daily, while little protection was associated with one cup or less, reported the researchers, led by Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber.
“We found that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of the cancer coming back and a significantly greater survival and chance of a cure,” Fuchs said.
Most recurrences happen within five years of treatment and are uncommon after that, he noted.
In patients with stage III disease, the cancer has been found in the lymph nodes near the original tumor but there are no signs of further metastasis. Fuchs said these patients have about a 35 percent chance of recurrence.
The results sound encouraging, but Fuchs is hesitant to make recommendations to patients until the results are confirmed in other studies.
“If you are a coffee drinker and are being treated for colon cancer, don’t stop,” he said. “But if you’re not a coffee drinker and wondering whether to start, you should first discuss it with your physician.”
An analysis of the study results by Fuchs and his colleagues showed that the lowered risk of cancer recurrence and deaths was entirely due to caffeine and not other components of coffee. He said it’s not clear why caffeine has this effect and the question needs further study.
One hypothesis is that caffeine consumption increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin so less of it is needed, which in turn may help reduce inflammation – a risk factor for diabetes and cancer, Fuchs said.
Coffee Intake, Recurrence, and Mortality in Stage III Colon Cancer: Results From CALGB 89803 (Alliance) Brendan J. Guercio, Kaori Sato, Donna Niedzwiecki, Xing Ye, Leonard B. Saltz, Robert J. Mayer, Rex B. Mowat, Renaud Whittom, Alexander Hantel, Al Benson, Daniel Atienza, Michael Messino, Hedy Kindler, Alan Venook, Frank B. Hu, Shuji Ogino, Kana Wu, Walter C. Willett, Edward L. Giovannucci, Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, and Charles S. Fuchs JCO 2015; DOI:10.1200/JCO.2015.61.5062.