Caffeinated Coffee May Reduce Oral Cancer Risk

People who drank more than four cups of caffeinated coffee a day were at half the risk of death from mouth and throat cancers than occasional or non-coffee drinkers, American Cancer Society researchers said in a study published online Dec. 9, 2012.

“Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world and contains a variety of antioxidants, polyphenols and other biologically active compounds that may help to protect against development or progression of cancers,” said the study’s lead author Janet Hildebrand.

“Although it is less common in the United States, oral/pharyngeal cancer is among the ten most common cancers in the world. Our finding strengthens the evidence of a possible protective effect of caffeinated coffee in the etiology and/or progression of cancers of the mouth and pharynx. It may be of considerable interest to investigate whether coffee consumption can lead to a better prognosis after oral/pharyngeal diagnosis.”

An estimated 40,250 new cases and 7,850 deaths from these mouth and throat cancers were expected in the United States during 2012. Men are more than twice as likely as women to develop and die from cancer of the oral cavity or pharynx.

The ACS study took a long view, focusing on 868 fatal cases of oral/pharyngeal cancer occurring over a 26-year period among 968,432 men and women who were cancer-free at enrollment in 1982.

Previous epidemiologic studies have suggested that coffee intake is associated with reduced risk of oral/pharyngeal cancer. To further explore those studies, researchers examined associations of caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee and tea intake with fatal oral/pharyngeal cancer in the Cancer Prevention Study II, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Few studies have examined caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee separately, perhaps, the authors say, because of limited data on the latter, which is consumed less frequently and in smaller amounts than caffeinated coffee.

They found that consumption of more than four cups of caffeinated coffee a day was associated with a 49 percent lower risk of oral/pharyngeal cancer death relative to no or occasional coffee intake. The data “suggested” a similar link among drinkers of more than two cups a day of decaffeinated coffee, although this data was deemed to be “of marginal significance.” No association was found for tea drinking.

The report’s authors included scientists affiliated with the American Cancer Society’s Epidemiology Research Program, Emory University’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the New York University Medical Center Department of Environmental Medicine. The ACS funds the creation, maintenance and updating of the Cancer Prevention Study II cohort.

“As one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, coffee and its effects on human health are of considerable interest,” the study concludes. “Although some health conditions will preclude the consumption of any caffeinated beverages on a regular basis, our results contribute to the body of research suggesting that there may be beneficial effects to coffee, particularly caffeinated coffee, and its daily enjoyment.”

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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