A Latte Live For: Coffee and Cancer

Young female at a nice wooden table holding a white tablet with the word CANCER in white on a hot pink background with a ribbon visible in the background.

These days, it’s a common joke that everything causes cancer–or is it? Is that just me? Whenever someone tells me that something I’m consuming probably causes cancer, my most likely answer (at least when I want to continue to, consume it) is that everything does, so what’s the difference?

This is, of course, an exaggeration. It’s an exaggeration that some have believed until quite recently about our favorite coffee. Many studies, some of which have spanned a decade or more, have come to light in the past few years with answers to that very question: what is coffee’s relationship with cancer?

The first bit of good news is that most of these studies have shown that coffee consumption is not linked to increased rates of cancer diagnoses! The better news is that a lot of cancers showed a decreased likelihood in connection with coffee consumption!!

The first thing to keep in mind is that, when we make health recommendations, we’re almost always talking about black coffee; adding dairy and sweeteners to your coffee can negate any benefits by increasing adverse effects, as in increasing obesity, damaging the immune system, and increases the likelihood of diseases like diabetes!

"Keep the Lumps Out of Your Cups" - Pictured: Two Cartoon Coffee Cups with Two lumps of Sugar on the ground in the space front of them.

What are the specifics?

This resource has a comprehensive list of links for reference to some recent findings of coffee and cancer. Some highlights include the fact that coffee consumption in different amounts decreases a variety of cancers. Four cups reportedly minimize the chances of oral and head cancers. Two cups are linked to reduced chances of uterine and colon cancer. Five cups are linked to lower chances of brain cancer. 1-3 cups are connected with significantly lower chances of getting liver cancer, and 3 cups were shown to reduce the likelihood of breast and endometrial cancers. Regular coffee consumption has also been linked with lowered risks of skin and lung cancers!

Coffee was described as potentially carcinogenic in the 90s; but, as of mid-2016, most experts agree that not only does it not seem to elevate the risks of cancer, it can actually lower the chances of man, as indicated above. Explanations for why coffee may be able to reduce the possibility of include antioxidant effects that naturally occur in coffee, and that the brew has been shown to eliminate cancer cells.

Truly, the only risk that most experts will concede about coffee and cancer is that hot beverage–and that’s boiling beverages consumed regularly–could potentially erode cells in the esophagus, making it vulnerable to cancerous cells. That is a rare risk because most people do not drink nearly 160 degrees; but, be warned that the recommended brewing temperature is usually around 200, so give yourself time to prevent cancer before you imbibe! Or, do what I do, which is all iced coffee all the time.

How? Why? Really?

It’s unclear what elements in coffee give us these results. It is known to be high in antioxidants, and chemicals released during roasting could potentially amplify coffee’s natural antioxidants. Oxidation is part of the process that leads to cancerous cells, so being anti-that minimizes the chances of those cells occurring, logically.  Some of these antioxidants also may reduce inflammation; your body heals itself and functions much more efficiently when not inflamed. Seriously, people are cryogenically freezing their bodies to minimize inflammation,  help their bodies heal and stop things like chronic pain!

Some of the chemicals in coffee, specifically its natural oils which are released during brewing and which were mainly present in filterless coffee brews have been linked with killing carcinogens and stopping their production.

Also, some cancer prevention seems to be specific to caffeinated coffee because the caffeine is a very specifically acting antioxidant itself. Caffeine may help to absorb ultraviolet light (so your skin doesn’t have to), though I saw only one source for this and it sounds fairly sci-fi-ey. It is also believed that caffeine intake, since it has been proven to speed digestion, may help to accelerate the digestion of ingested carcinogens, thus minimizing their damage to the body.

Then, there’s always my theory (backed up by other theories sort of) that coffee can help you achieve a happier, more productive, more socially fulfilling and successful life. Coffee, for me, boosts my (perceived) ability to socialize, releasing all those good-feeling chemicals in my brain and bolstering connections to people who make me happy, can take care of me, or who can contribute beneficially to my life in some way. Caffeine inspires my creativity and helps me get more done that I want to, giving me a sense of accomplishment as well as actual accomplishment. People who are busy and fulfilled by their business tend to be happier. Caffeine is a natural anti-depressant, and our immune systems seem to react to our mood. Bernie Madoff’s son had been in remission from cancer, and back at work, for years when his father was arrested, and within two years of that scandal, the son was re-diagnosed with cancer and died. Granted, coffee can only go so far in these areas, productivity, and happiness and socialize, of course; but, the real point is, it’s most likely not a bad thing, and it’s very probably an excellent thing to have in your life!

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14 Comments

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  1. This is a nice article. Just right in time for me to read since I wasnt feeling really well lately. This gave me more inspiration to stand up and get more things done and be happy on what I do. The feeling is mutual. Probably the anti-depressant effect of coffee right? 🙂 Coffee and a good partner to talk with is a good combination for energy and health booster. 🙂 Thank you for this!

  2. I definitely think this article is both informative and interesting. However, it would be cool to see the comparison between the health benefits of coffee, tea, maté, chaga, etc. I drink all of those kinds of hot beverages, but I want to know which one is best for me! 🙂

  3. I think that the last point is the most important. Living a happy, healthy life is the most surefire way to life long and prosper. If drinking coffee is what makes you happy then do it. I think you’ve proven time and again it’s health benefits and why we should all feel good about enjoying our favorite morning (or all day) drink. 🙂

  4. I just felt like I need a cup of coffee while I was reading this article 😀 I’m glad to know that we don’t drink coffee just because we love its taste but also because it’s very useful for our bodies, coffee really boosts my ability to socialize and it gives me power and energy to be more productive.

  5. Coffee has been proven to be beneficial for the body in many ways, whether is waking up, energizing after workout, cleaning the body….it goes on and on. Everybody loves their coffee for their own reason.
    It contains a lot of antioxidants which clean the body and help it fight against bacteria. Also, its the number one help for people with low body pressure, since it raises its levels, as well as helping many students survive exams (Amen to that).
    Cancer is a big issue today, and most of us have had a person in our lives who has been (or is) sick of cancer, and hearing that coffee doesnt have a big impact in that really is a relief for me. Because I’m sure that many of the cancer fighters are big coffee lovers, and I’m glad they can be able to enjoy a warm cup of coffee whenever they want to.

  6. I had no idea that people even associated coffee with cancer. This was a very interesting and informative article! I love learning about all of the health benefits of coffee. I generally enjoy discovering new health information in general, but it’s especially nice that this is about something I actually ingest on a daily basis.

  7. As I was reading this article and drinking my favourite coffee at the moment-black turkish coffee-I was wondering how could something that brings me so much on a daily basis be wrong for me? Honestly, I could care less If it was definite that coffee is not good for you, I would probably still drink it. What about all those people who smoke and drink often than others and those who drink a lot of energetic beverages? It`s even worse than drinking coffee, so I really do not believe that coffee could do harm in any way, If consumed in the right amount, of course. We are all going to die eventually, so why not enjoy life while we still can? There is no need to restrain ourselves of something more, especially because we already do that all the time considering other things.

  8. Interesting to note that cancer research has gone a long way. I’ve read that cancer is almost a genetic mutation. It can happen to anyone regardless of their lifestyle. Hoping that this article brings hope to all those fighting the good fight!

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